When the Hornets made a fourth-quarter run at the Spurs in Friday’s
game at the AT&T Center, slicing a double-digit lead to five
points, Manu Ginobili decided it was time to put away a team whose
collective resolve has been membrane-thin for weeks.
When he came free off a screen on the Spurs’ next possession, Ginobili fired in a long 3-point shot that made the Hornets’ shoulders sag.
It was the sort of play that wins games, and it’s what Ginobili, more than any Spurs player, has done in eight seasons in silver and black.
When any game is on the line, it is Ginobili who most often is asked to produce victory. On a team with a two-time NBA MVP and certain first-ballot Hall of Fame big man, it seems lunacy to say it, but Ginobili is the Spurs’ MVP.
Can anyone in South Texas see him in another uniform?
Two summers ago, the Spurs couldn’t. There were talks aimed at extending the contract he signed in the summer of 2004, when he was a restricted free agent and Denver made a hard sell the Spurs trumped.
Then Ginobili returned to Argentina to practice for the national team’s defense of its 2004 Olympic gold medal. The Spurs held their collective breath all summer, and when Ginobili went down with an ankle injury in a semifinal game in Beijing, the extension talks were put on ice, right alongside his ankle.
The Spurs wanted to see how Ginobili recovered, and when his season ended last April because of a stress fracture in his right ankle, the waiting game went overtime.
The Spurs began this season needing to see what a 32-year-old had left. What they’ve witnessed over the last three weeks should be evidence enough. Ginobili is himself again, finishing at the rim and running down the league’s best athletes to block dunks and change games.