AT&T Center – San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can barely handle Manu Ginobili, the eccentric backup shooting guard that habitually unfurls high-risk passes in traffic, and utilizes a step back to generate space for a very, very difficult shot. These, um, decisions don't always end so well.
He can only take so much. Enter Marco Belinelli, the 27-year-old swingman that, if you squint, kind of resembles Ginobili. Belinelli signed a two-year, $5.63 million contract with San Antonio this offseason. A big factor was, in fact, his basketball idol — Ginobili.
"I'm happy to be playing with him," Ginobili said. "We're going to be playing together a lot. We're going to be the second unit. It is a great opportunity for us to have fun together and play well, but we have to get to know each other. This is going to take a little time."
Ginobili, in a career low 23.2 minutes per game, averaged 11.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 rebounds. San Antonio outscored the opposition by 7.8 points per 100 possessions with Ginobili on the floor last season, according to NBA.com/Stats.
It was the fourth consecutive season the Spurs were better with Ginobili on the court. They amassed a 6.2 points per 100 possessions margin, still awesome, in his absence last year.
Ginobili is still a productive player, albeit in limited time.
Belinelli's addition will presumably relieve Ginobili of his offensive burden. Ginobili handled 25.2 percent of San Antonio's possessions last year according to Basketball Reference — only Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, the primary hubs of the offense, had a higher usage rate.
Belinelli inherited a starting role in Chicago, ravaged by injuries last year, and he can play 28-30 minutes in a pinch. Adjusting to the nuances of Popovich's motion offense is not an easy task, though.
It takes time. And when that time occurs, Popovich will need to buckle up.
Fireworks are likely.