I’m worried about Manu Ginobili. At 35, his injury history is extensive enough to be available on Google Books. Since slapping down a bat that came swooping in from the AT&T Center’s rafters three seasons ago, Ginobili has been affectionately known as the Batman to Spurs’ faithful. Ginobili could use the body armor, because his health is worse than Bruce Wayne’s was toward the end of the trilogy. His teammates call him El Contusion. It’s a fitting nickname because his injury gene is clutch like Kobe when the shot clock’s winding down.
Gregg Popovich has always been more comfortable with Ginobili finishing instead of starting, but, for the fourth time in the last six years, a Ginobili injury towards the season’s end will disrupt the Spurs’ chase for a fifth NBA title.
During the Spurs’ first round series against Phoenix in ’08, Ginobili fought through a posterior impingement in his ankle, but his play declined before the Spurs were eliminated. A stress fracture of his distal right fibula had him out for the entire 2009 postseason.
In 2011, Ginobili saved his annual climactic injury for the final game of the regular season. He broke his arm, and, although he played through the injury, they were upset by the seventh-seeded Grizzlies in the first round. On Friday, Ginobili strained his hamstring. The injury could keep him out several weeks including the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Who can blame Pops for wanting to cryogenically freeze his star players on the bench until the playoffs begin?
A week ago, The Shadow League discussed Ginobili mentally blacking out and allowing his senior moments to cost the Spurs. Instead, his body checked out on him. Ginobili’s absence changes the entire dynamic of the Spurs efficiency-based offense. Ginobili is a vital component of San Antonio’s offense, and, without him, Stephen Jackson will be called upon to play a significant role backing up Danny Green.
“It’s a huge blow for us because he’s the guy that allows our second team to do what they’ve been doing all year long,” Gregg Popovich told the media. “It’s a huge loss for that group and in game situations it’s a tough one because he’s one of two guys — he and Tony (Parker) — that are the creators who make everything happen for everybody else on the court. It’s an unfortunate loss at this point of the season.”
With Ginobili out of the lineup, Tony Parker is going to get swarmed by perimeter defenders like thirsty dudes on Rihanna’s Instagram page.
“Without Manu, Tony is a guy who has to generate things for us,” Popovich explained in reference to their loss against Miami. “And they pretty much took him out with all their double-teams and hard hedges.”
The Spurs will once again be vulnerable during the first round; and, to make matters worse, they are likely to be matched up against their mortal enemies in the first round. The Lakers have been a walking triage unit for much of the season, but the bones, ligaments and tissue have healed in time for the postseason.
The Black Mamba, who’s recovering from bone spurs in his left foot, has to smell San Antonio’s blood in the playoff water. Missing out on a golden opportunity to creep up on the Rockets and Warriors in the West has treated L.A. with a first-round sacrifice.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for NBA conspiracy theorists, who point out that Kobe may have won two titles without Shaq, but he’s never won a ring without Stern.
After the Lakers snuck away with two fouls on Ricky Rubio’s game-tying three last week, the conspiracy theories have been given a second wind. There’s now a video circulating YouTube’s dark underbelly detailing instances of Laker bias by conspiring officials at the end of close contests.
Maybe there are more bats in those rafters where the Spurs hang their championship banners. We may never know, because without Manu Ginobili in the Spurs lineup, they may not be disturbed.