Spurs guard Manu Ginobili on Sunday morning announced his intention to play another season in the NBA.
The 38-year-old Argentine, one of the most popular players in franchise history, made the announcement via a blog on his personal website. He has been in his home in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, doing fitness training and sharpening his basketball skills as he prepares to join the Argentine national team in preparations for the Olympic basketball tournament in Rio de Janeiro.
“The most relevant news to tell you is that I have decided to keep on playing in the NBA,” Ginobili wrote. “I didn’t have a lot of doubts but as I’ve usually done it, now I let a little bit of time pass to see the season that just passed from a far-away vantage point. The reality is that this year I feel more confident, even more so than last year. I had a great year last year. Other than the ‘little’ incident of February I was totally healthy. I definitely want to continue enjoying basketball a little bit more.”
The February incident to which Ginobili referred was a testicular injury that required surgery. He missed 12 games, including the entire rodeo road trip, and was sidelined for a full month.
Ginobili said he would provide more details about his decision to return to the NBA in the monthly column he writes for Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper.
That Ginobili made no mention of the Spurs in his blog post is interesting, but ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote that the veteran of 13 seasons in silver and black is expected to return to the only NBA team for which he has played.
Stein cited league sources.
Herb Rudoy, who has represented Ginobili in contract matters since the start of his Spurs career, confirmed that Ginobii’s preference is to return to the Spurs but added that several other teams were interested in speaking with him after learning of his intent to continue his NBA career.
“His preference is to return to the Spurs if the contract is right,” Rudoy said, via text message. “Hopefully, (the Spurs) will make an offer that reflects his value and the current market.”
With the salary cap increasing by more than $24 million some of the deals that reportedly have been agreed to after the first weekend of free agency have been eye-popping. Celtics shooting guard Evan Turner, for example, reportedly has agreed to join the Portland Trail Blazers for $70 million over four seasons. In his five NBA seasons Turner never has averaged more than 14.0 points per game. He averaged 1.05 points per game as a reserve for Boston last season.
On June 22 Ginobili opted out of the final season of the two-year contract he signed with the Spurs last July that was to have paid him $2.9 million. Depending on how the Spurs use their room under the NBA’s recently announced salary cap of $94.143 million, they can retain so-called Larry Bird rights for the two-time All-Star that allow them to re-sign him for any amount above the salary cap.
Though Ginobili enjoyed a resurgent 2015-16 season – he was one of only three Spurs to rank in the top 20 in ESPN’s “real plus-minus” rankings, along with Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan – his scoring average dipped below 10 points (9.6 points per game) for the first time since his rookie season of 2002-03. However, his 3-point shooting percentage was fourth-highest of his career (39.1 percent) and his overall shooting percentage jumped from 42.6% to 45.3%, while his turnovers dropped from 2.2 per game to 1.7.
The Spurs were one of six teams that spent the first weekend of NBA free agency on Long Island wooing Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. A four-time NBA scoring champion and the 2013 Most Valuable Player, Durant is considered the best free agent who may be willing to change teams. Cleveland’s LeBron James also is a free agent but is expected to re-sign with the Cavaliers, the reigning NBA champions.
Durant was to conclude his meetings with teams on Sunday afternoon. His decision is expected on Monday and will determine the free agency direction for those teams that don’t win the battle to sign him.
Top Image: Spurs Forward Manu Ginobili sits on the sidelines during the pre-game introductions. Photo by Scott Ball.
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