NBA: Manu Ginobili has built a legacy of love for team in his storied career
John Tavares and his reps no longer plan to bring any additional teams into their free-agent process after meeting with Dallas and Tampa. (ESPN) – There's one working theory of why the Suns granted Chandler the buyout now instead of in February or March when the traditional. Updated September 11, at PM ; Posted September 11, at AM . Bryant was criticized for coaching dirty play when Alabama's Darwin Holt Bryant's meeting in with Kennedy occurred as the attorney 1 Penn State on a famous goal-line stand to win the national title, a play.
And for three guys to play their whole careers [with one team] and never leave, we know it's very unique. We're all very proud of what we've accomplished, but at the same time we don't have time for that.
I don't want to think so much about what we've accomplished and what we have here and what we've [done]. We just want to keep going. He's hardly the only coach with an extensive array of what scouts refer to as "visuals," but he's the only one who, in the words of former Spurs forward Kurt Thomasflashes signals as if he's "on a baseball diamond.
Almost every trip down the floor, even as he calls plays out, Pop adds clear-as-day hand signals to leave nothing to chance. This ensures that none of his players can claim he didn't hear the call. When he wants something out of his "Cross" series -- typically asking a smaller player to set a cross screen on a big man -- he'll cross both arms against his chest. When he opts for something out of the "Lift" set to float a big man out beyond the 3-point line, it's a tap on the head. Mimicking a traveling call is "Roll" sideline pick-and-rolldragging his hand down his tie is "Rub" middle pick-and-roll And those are merely a few of the options out of Pop's Joe Maddon handbook.
As legend has it, Pop was asked several years ago to change the way he signals for "Shake," which calls for a sideline pick-and-roll with another Spur stationed in the strong corner. The league is said to have decreed at the time that Pop would have to make sure his rolling-dice motion for "Shake" was done with his arm to his side -- as opposed to straight down the middle of his body -- to avoid anything suggestive.
Yet it's the sheer volume of the signals, more than the complexity, that can confound even vets who've been around the block. He'll do [signals] real fast; he'll do it standing, he'll do it sitting in a chair. I've played for [other] coaches that used hand signals, but I've also played for some that do none. How does it feel to absorb the full-blast wrath of Gregg Popovich when Pop, in his own words, goes "Serbian" on a particular Spur with an all-out eruption in front of all his teammates?
You're gonna get torn down. You're gonna get it during film sessions, you're gonna get it on the court, you're gonna get in practice.
It ranks as one of the more amazing aspects of Pop's long tenure in charge: No one ever seems to quit on Pop no matter how loudly he screams. No one checks out. Pop's been a yeller since he took over for Bob Hill just 18 games into the season and hasn't mellowed yet.
To this day, though, Pop has the rare privilege of knowing his best player is still willing to step face-first into the coach's full-throttle spittle if Pop thinks that's what the team needs to see. He wants to be coached to this day. Pop would say things to David [Robinson] like, 'I don't understand how you ever made the All-Star Game,' but then he'll support it with video. He always has the video to back up his point. He was always on me for being the worst defensive point guard in the league.
I told you you're a poor shooter from 80 percent of the spots on the floor, and you won't go to your 20 percent areas. It's one of his greatest assets. Whatever happens in the moment, fine, but he's always thinking about moving on, moving on, moving on. I guess that's why we're so close. We've had lots of run-ins -- there were times my wife had to separate us -- but guess what? That's my main man.
There were some days he wanted to go back to France, but once he figured out Pop's heart, then the rest was history. Pop was trying to figure out what the kid was made of. Now look at him: I don't mind taking the heat -- it was never an issue for me -- because I understand.
It happened to Tim. It happened to Tony. It happened to Manu. Some of it is to see exactly what type of individual you are and see how you respond. If you go into the tank and there's nothing he can do with you, then, OK, your time might be limited here.
Yet the coach's tirades are never a lasting problem, Ginobili concludes, "because you know why he does it. If he unloads on you, it's because there's a reason. He knows who to unload on, too. You're not going to go back at him; that's something you don't do. We all understand him. We can argue and fight and disagree, but we're going to step onto the court and cheer for each other. It's not the sight of old nemesis Joey Crawford showing up to call that night's game. It's not even one of those dreaded but mandatory trips to the interview room with a bunch of pesky reporters waiting with their annoying questions.
What unnerves the unflappable Duncan? You ever see that man swing a club? Uglier than his jumper. So we'll have to take Elliott's word for it there.
Guards play because they love it. Timmy has a guard's mentality. He has a guard's passion for the game in a big body. That's why he's been so good. Ditto for the way he's more recently developed such convincing counters to ward off old age and heavy mileage and what looked to be the beginning of the end in the playoffs, when the Spurs were swept by Phoenix after tormenting the Steve Nash -led Suns for years.
New Golden State Warriors coach Kerr, who played alongside Duncan for four seasons and was the Suns' GM at the time, marvels at where Duncan was in those playoffs compared with where he is now after changes to his diet and an even greater commitment in the workout room. It was easy to say, 'Well, this is it, he's got one or two years left and he's going to have to play 25 minutes a game and settle for being a solid player.
You don't even know. I go to the practice facility about five or six times during the summer to shoot baskets or work out or give someone a tour And they're like, 'Tim Duncan is here? He's a big man and a gym rat. You have a lot of bigs who play because they're big. How many people do you see with a metal brace on their leg that cocks their knee back? How many players are willing to do that, much less can do it?
Duncan turned 38 in April, has clocked more than 50, minutes in this league when you add the postseason to his total and, according to his good buddy Rose, isn't looking ahead to retirement with any semblance of relish. He's so into his cars that he opened a full-service customization shop literally around the corner from the Spurs' practice facility. He's so hooked on gaming that he lobbied one of his closest former teammates to name his son after a certain virtual-football empire.
Duncan is also an extremely devoted single father of two who, as his coach is constantly preaching, clearly has plenty of interests away from the hardwood. Rose has a 3-year-old son of his own named Miles. Duncan is the young boy's godfather. He calls him Madden anyway. I called him to ask him what we have to wear. He said long pants and a long-sleeve shirt 'so it can protect you from the paint.
When I asked him why, he said: He had special guns. I was like, 'Wow. I don't think he'll ever grow out of that as long as his body is able to do it. But he's gonna be just fine. It's a question that's been in circulation ever since Pop teased us early last season with the suggestion that he and his favorite player had become the proverbial old married couple. Pop gets mad at Tim.
Tim gets mad at Pop. But at the end of the day, they don't go to bed mad at each other. It's a line manufactured for a media chuckle. The truth is that they still talk all the time, just like always, having connected instantaneously on that first trip Pop took to the Virgin Islands -- before Pop was POP! So say those who've worked with them and watched them from close range ever since.
Buford, Spurs president of basketball operations: The things that are important to both of them are in alignment. They communicated on a different level pretty quickly. And they've grown even closer as Tim's life experiences have changed.
But at the end of the day they don't go to bed mad at each other. Their relationship is like nothing I've seen on any team I've ever been on.
I always thought me and [Don Nelson] were close in Dallas There are high standards, high expectations, and Timmy doesn't always meet them, as great a player as he is. So sometimes they get pissy and stop talking, but there's always a very deep understanding there. I think he's counsel for Tim in a lot of different areas. And it's a different level for Tim because he doesn't have other people he goes to.
Buford Spurs alumnus Thomas: If Tim can take it, you can take it. From the top guy all the way to the bottom of the totem pole, he treats them all the same. And it's a different level for Tim because he doesn't have other people he goes to, especially now that [former agent] Lon [Babby] went to Phoenix.
Because he is like a pop. He's like a father to a lot of the guys. He doles out great advice. I think [former Spurs player and executive ] Danny Ferry said it best, so I'm going to steal this from Danny: Pop has a way of making you feel like the most important guy in the world.
He'll ask your opinion on a situation even when he knows he's probably got a better answer. But he makes you feel a part of it. When I was there, I always felt a part of it. It was the first time Duncan landed on the league's official Most Popular Jerseys list since Compare that with an ESPN survey conducted in -- in which zero teenagers in a survey pool of 18, fans of all ages named Duncan as their favorite player -- and you're tempted to conclude that the Duncan-led Spurs might finally be trending away from the "boring" tag they've lugged around for years.
They both want the same thing. He's a superstar who doesn't want the limelight, and Pop is a coach who doesn't want the limelight. It's one of the reasons those two are close. It's perhaps the game's ultimate modern paradox: Why do we so often hear fans lobbying to see more attention paid to the sort of team-first, right-way-to-play, wildly successful organization that the Spurs have built, but then pay so little attention themselves when given the choice?
The Spurs' view has always been that it's a question better answered by the fans than by the Spurs themselves. Especially since Duncan, with that bank shot of his right out of some old-school textbook, is perfectly content to remain the most anonymous all-time great in the sport's history.
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But it's Horry's belief that Pop does deliberately try to keep things boring, rather than just letting the humdrum flow naturally from Duncan's determination to dodge the spotlight and stick to just keeping working on those window-kissing bankers.
They try their hardest against those guys. Pop shuts everything down [in terms of endorsements and glamour] because he doesn't want anyone coming at the Spurs like that. He won't admit it, but I really believe that's why Pop shuts it all down. They're envious of the way we run things and how we do things and how we get things done and the kind of coach that Pop is.
They're envious of that stuff. They're not envious of the image. This is the looming source of angst that the Spurs' chief architect, even in the best of times, can't seem to excise from his head.
What in the world do the Spurs do when Pop and Timmy decide to retire? Asked how often he ponders the daunting hereafter, Buford confesses: Hundreds of times every day. It's all guesswork from the outside. Multiple theories abound when it comes to the actual Pop-and-Timmy exit strategy, but that's largely because neither, quite predictably, has ever shown any willingness to discuss the matter with any depth.
Which keeps true to Pop's long-held determination, Air Force Academy-style, to keep everything classified. Will they suddenly decide to walk away together if the Spurs win it all this June for the fifth time in franchise history? Does Duncan secretly have it in him to play on for three or four more seasons as Horry suggested above? Won't Pop stay on as some sort of Red Auerbach-style patriarch to oversee the return of Budenholzer or the Lil' General Avery Johnson as his successor on the bench?
Although one thing I think may happen is Pop staying an extra year to make sure things are going in the right direction, so it won't be such a shock to the franchise with both of them leaving at the same time.
If those two did it together, it would be so fitting for them to leave together. I would bet money Pop and Tim leave together If the world's media can get them trapped at the NBA Finals lectern, with no escape, perhaps they'll be coerced into sharing some level of clarity. Perhaps these two will find a way, at last, to see off the stubbornly spry and hyperactive Thunder, avenge last June's Finals heartbreak and then be forced to decide whether to seize the opportunity to leave the game in the same triumphant and storybook manner The Admiral did.
If Pop and Timmy, that is, can actually bear to tear themselves away from everything they've built since that magical combination of pingpong balls threw them together for life in the late spring of Seventeen sweet years ago. When I was there, Tim would come to draft workouts and draft meetings. Pop would ask his opinion on free agents and trades and stuff happening in the locker room. The care factor with Tim is unbelievable. It's gonna be an entirely new era here in San Antonio. We don't have the real NBA here.
We've had two superstars in Timmy and David who didn't read the superstar handbook. He averaged 19 points per game on 58 percent shooting overall, and destroyed a hastily assembled Team USA in the semifinals with 29 points on a sizzling 9-of from the floor. His levitating, leaning, buzzer-beating game winner against Serbia in group play, vengeance for that loss in Indianapolis, stands as perhaps the most iconic moment of his career: He averaged 19 points and four assists per game in the Spurs' seven-game grind over Detroit in the Finals, often serving as San Antonio's crunch-time playmaker.
He started almost every game he played inincluding all seven against Detroit, and flummoxed the league's canniest wing defenders with his syncopated game and bottomless bag of tricks. That is what people want to hear. But the truth is, it might have been Manu. He'd rev it to fourth gear, get by you, take it back to second gear so you'd run into him, and then he'd make a crazy floater. I made a living studying offensive players.
I couldn't figure him out. But I loved that I got to know what it feels like. All-Stars didn't come off the bench, but with the Spurs scrounging for second-unit offense early in those same playoffs, Popovich slid Ginobili back into a sixth man role over eight games against Denver and Seattle.
The coaching staff liked how the rotation flowed. By the middle of the season, it was unanimous among the coaches and front office: The Spurs would be better with Ginobili off the bench. There was no way to spread enough touches around to Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili when they shared the floor, and San Antonio's offense sputtered when they rested.
The coaching staff felt Ginobili, bathed in the Golden Generation's selfless spirit, might accept the bench role more readily than Parker. The only debate was whether the move would be fair to a player so accomplished. Popovich asked Ginobili privately in January.
Whatever he said, we would do it. He deserved that," Popovich said. Ginobili nodded his agreement, and left the meeting. Word filtered to the other players. He can't not start. Look at that guy, then talk to me. Ginobili knew the decision would cost him. He made the All-Star team just twice. He could have achieved more individual glory as a heavy-minutes starter. Over dinner one night that season, Bowen remarked that the transition seemed to be working.
Ginobili cut him off: You play this game because you want to start.
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It gave me empathy. It capped Ginobili's minutes, preserving his body. San Antonio coaches politely caution that Ginobili's full-throttle style may not have been sustainable under the minutes required for traditional Hall of Fame stats. Ginobili is a Hall of Fame lock, to be clear. If the NBA had a game season, like college, he'd be one of the 10 greatest players ever. I was the main option. I enjoyed that attention. We were having fun. I ended up loving the role.
He baked the meanest no-look dishes since Magic Johnson, but for the spread pick-and-roll era.
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Ginobili slithers around a screen, rises to pass, stares at an open shooter on the weak side -- and at the exact moment the defender leans that way, plops a no-looker to his screener rolling free to the rim: You can't teach that. That pick-and-roll revived the Spurs after it appeared the league had passed them by. Ginobili wasn't the only force propelling the offense from the post to the perimeter -- Parker, Popovich, Duncan and Mike D'Antoni all helped -- but he was among the most important, and unifying.
The Spurs eventually called it "weak fly," and those who play and coach in other places have found it impossible to replicate. We've worked on it [in Atlanta], but I think we got one all season. After enough time together, Patty Mills found the pass-and-cut rhythm to impersonate Parker: They ate out every night on the road -- Ginobili has a "no room service" rule -- and took turns picking restaurants.
When Mills joined the Spurs inGinobili peppered him with questions about indigenous Australians; Mills' mother is Aboriginal, and his father is from the Torres Strait Islands. Ginobili is intensely curious. He is learning Portuguese because of Splitter. He tracks space phenomena that might be visible from wherever the Spurs are on a particular night; the United Nations group spent one snowy evening on the roof of a parking garage in Denver, watching shooting stars, Mills said.
When Oberto was prepping for heart surgery inhe asked Ginobili to accompany him to a doctors appointment. Ginobili stayed at the hospital during Oberto's operation. Adrian Paenza, an Argentine mathematics professor and author who doubles as a national hoops historian, has Ginobili review his manuscripts. He once presented Ginobili a riddle: How many people need to be in one room for there to be at least a 50 percent chance that two have the same birthday?
Ginobili was in disbelief. He began testing the solution before every Spurs game by scanning team rosters, which list birth dates of every player -- 30 in total.
By accident, Ginobili at those dinners was transplanting the Golden Generation culture into San Antonio. The chemistry bled onto the floor. Ginobili committed eight turnovers and was a team-worst minus in the aborted clincher.
He is still grappling with that night, especially since it came after his strongest postseason performance in Game 5. It made me weak. It had never happened.
My head was always the thing that drove me. The whole team and their families went to Il Gabbiano in Miami that night for dinner; Splitter, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili sat at the same table as Popovich approached every member of the dinner party with words of encouragement. Nobody at Ginobili's table spoke. We couldn't even look at each other face-to-face. We just wanted to be close to each other. We're going to be OK. Ginobili could not accept the good wishes. He didn't talk to most of his Argentine teammates about the Finals for months, until he sent several of them an email explaining what had happened and assuring them he would recover.
He did, of course. So did the Spurs. They rebounded a year later by smashing Miami in an all-time display of team basketball. Ginobili played with the same reckless joy. Hitting rock bottom the year before did not infect his game with fear or caution. His old friends loved it, even the scary collisions and nutty turnovers.