There’s a certain road to recovery that takes place when things end the way they did for the San Antonio Spurs. A fifth NBA title slipping through Kawhi Leonard’s arms and into Ray Allen’s hands will never be forgotten, but it can’t be dwelled on either.
Enter Manu Ginobili.
The then 35-year-old looked like a shell of his former self for most of the Finals, minus his incredible Game 5 performance that put the Spurs in the driver seat to close out the series. Would he retire? Would the Spurs even offer him a contract? And just exactly what would Manu look like in another uniform?
Well thankfully it never came to that point. After Game 7, Ginobili was noncommittal about his plans for the 2013-14 season. In reality, he just wanted the Spurs to say they wanted him.
He shot under 40 percent in the postseason and had eight turnovers in Game 6 of the finals, when the Spurs were up five points and 20 seconds from closing the series out when the Heat rallied to win it. And when the series was over, he was the only member of the Spurs' star trio that didn't immediately vow to come back in 2014.
Given his lengthy history of injuries and erratic performance in the playoffs, Ginobili wasn't sure if the Spurs wanted him back. It took Spurs general manager RC Buford less than six minutes on July 1 when the market opened to tell Ginobili that he was wanted and needed.
"That's all I wanted to hear," said Ginobili, who signed a two-year, $14.5 million deal. "After the finals, (I wanted to know and) understand they really wanted me back. Once I heard that, I said, `OK."'
Though Ginobili’s contract may be a slightly higher than what a lot of Spurs fans were willing to pay the Argentinean guard, everyone understands that keeping Ginobili was a necessary move. And now entering his 12th season, Manu looks like…well, Manu through the first three preseason games.
He is averaging team-highs with 12.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals in 21 minutes per game in the preseason. He is once again charging headfirst to the basket for layups and dunks and firing passes to teammates – and occasionally to unsuspecting fans in the first few rows.
Most of the Spurs met for dinner during the offseason to commiserate and cope with the finals loss, but the biggest remedy for Ginobili is being back on the court. He admitted to not being ready mentally a month ago. But being back in training camp with his teammates has refueled his "energy bars."
Of course the newly re-energized Ginobili may not last, but limiting the bangs and bruises he’ll endure throughout the 82-game schedule can only help to keep him fresh. And as long Manu has something in the tank come playoff time, the drive for five will be stronger than ever.