The championship window for the San Antonio Spurs is sealed shut. Following 22 consecutive playoff appearances and five titles, the Spurs have missed the postseason in each of the last two years. But head coach Gregg Popovich will be getting some semblance of the old days back in the form of Manu Ginobili. As to why the retired Argentinian is coming back to the organization, Pop explained the only way Pop could.
Manu Ginobili is working for the San Antonio Spurs
Even though Spurs fans might long to see him return to the court, Ginobili’s new role with the Spurs is a little different. The 44-year-old was hired as a special adviser to basketball operations, a job that allows him to assist the franchise in multiple ways.
“He’s going to do everything,” Popovich said during Spurs Media Day. “He’s going to help [general manager] Brian [Wright] in management. He’s going to help me with coaching. He’s going to help the players with development. He’s probably going to go scout some people. I think he’s probably going to figure out a two-week trip to Italy to scout foreign players. I’ll go with him. … But I’m being serious, he’s going to do all those things and see where he feels comfortable. It’s just great to have him in the program for all kinds of reasons, but mainly because we love the guy. And he’s Manu Ginobili, so who wouldn’t want to have him around?”
After coming over from a pro league in Italy, Ginobili spent his entire 16-year career with the Spurs. He became a two-time All-Star, Sixth Man of the Year in 2007-08, and four-time NBA champion. His 1,057 games with the Spurs are the third-most in franchise history, trailing former teammates Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. He’s also fifth in team history with over 14,000 points and first with just under 1,500 three-pointers.
Gregg Popovich joked why Ginobili returned to the Spurs
Ginobili has been watching the Spurs from home for the last three years since retiring in 2018. But according to Pop, three years was far too much time for Manu’s wife, Marianela.
“I’ve never been one to give up a whole lot of personal information and locker room stuff, but … his wife needed him gone. And we like Many [Marianela] a lot better than him, so we listened to her.”Gregg Popovich
Hilariously, it’s not the first time there’s been a story about Manu being too much for his wife. During COVID quarantining, Many published several tweets describing her interesting interactions with her future Hall of Fame husband.
“Day 14: Me: ‘Manu, you have to clean the ceiling fans,'” said one tweet (translated from Spanish). “Manu: ‘Is there such a need?!?!’ What happens is that you can’t see me in peace! Quarantine Conversations.”
The Spurs hope Ginobili can help bring winning basketball back to San Antonio
The Spurs are no longer the perennial championship contenders they were for the majority of the century. San Antonio followed up a 32-39 campaign in 2019-20 with a 33-39 record last season. Chances are, the losing is going to continue for a while longer, especially with leading scorer DeMar DeRozan departing this offseason.
San Antonio returns guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, each of whom averaged over 15 points per game last season. Third-year forward Keldon Johnson, who just spent the summer with Team USA at the Olympics, is hoping to break out in his third season. Those three players could be the core Ginobili works with to get the Spurs back on top.
Manu’s return shows a desire to recapture some of the franchise’s previous magic. Ginobili, Duncan, and Parker were the three faces of the team for the majority of San Antonio’s title window, with the two guards set to join Duncan in the Hall of Fame soon. Ginobili’s presence alone should inspire Murray, White, and Johnson, along with any future players, to want to build the Spurs into another powerhouse.
Everyone in the Spurs organization is happy to have Ginobili back. And if Pop is right, maybe his wife is too.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.