The Stress reaction and other Manu Ginobili folktales

(Written Saturday night.)

One $30, adjustable height ironing board.
One $6 chair cushion, which I am now sitting on.
Two $1 toilet scrubbers, which I will use at most twice before throwing away.

That is what I purchased this evening at Ikea. They have self-checkout lines there now, and I forgot they don't give you bags to carry out your stuff. I didn't feel like buying a bag I was just going to throw away, so I just hauled the stuff out to my car. On my way home I stopped at Super Fantastic Wal-Mart for soda. I again used the self-checkout line; it was either that or wait 20 minutes. In Wal-Mart. On a Saturday night. No thank you. Then drive thru at Taco Cabana. Then home.

It reminded me of something I wrote to a friend, back in the days when I wrote with an earnest belief my own words could change me:

Living alone in a condo where you never see your neighbors is considered "hip." It makes little sense when you strip away the packaging. So much of the American Dream seems superficial and isolationist. Move away to the suburbs. By a car for every adult so you don't have to share. A TV for every room so every family member can watch what they want. When did convenience come to mean the avoidance of human interaction? Success is measured by how alone one make his or her self. I am independent. Which is really the same as I am alone.

Well I don't know
I may go
Down or up or anywhere
But I feel
Like this scribbling might stay.

(That's not the Shins. That's Woody Guthrie.)

****

I will not pretend that Ginobili's injury keeps me up at night. Or that it affects me to the extent it affects Michael and, undoubtedly, many of you. But I understand the cold reality of the situation: there is no silver lining to this. This is a not a jammed pinky finger on his non-shooting hand. This is not taking advantage of an opportunity to get him some rest. This is the beginnings of a stress fracture. This is Manu staying off his leg for over a week. This is Manu getting out of game shape. Claiming this won't matter as long as "he's healthy for the playoffs" is pure myopia. (It's like buying a 3000 square foot house located 20 miles outside of Phoenix for $600,000 and telling yourself "the fact I can't afford the payments once the loan resests won't matter as long as the house is worth $700,000 by then." Well, duh.) Plain and simple, this injury makes it less likely he'll be 100% in the playoffs. Which means it's more likely we're doomed.

Doomed, I tell you.

Doomed.

Strangely enough, a couple days before his injury I was actually starting to think number 5 was a real possibility. Not probable, but possible. Coming into the season, the list of Western Conference teams capable of beating a healthy Spurs in a 7 game series was: the Lakers, Houston, New Orleans and Utah (in that order). Utah had suffered through injuries all season, and even when healthy I would give the Spurs an edge. New Orleans traded away their chance at beating the Spurs when they saladumped Chandler. Houston without McGrady wasn't a threat, and the Lakers were (in the realm of) beatable without Bynum.

It wasn't impossible to imagine a successful playoff scenario: Tim being Tim, Tony being unstoppable a couple of games, the role players continuing to play above their heads and Manu pulling 2005 out of his past a couple times. Maybe the Spurs get lucky and Cleveland takes care of Boston. Pop could figure out a way to prevent Lebron from beating us single-handedly, right? And they still don't have anyone to guard Tony, right?

But then the Spurs whiffed at the trading deadline.

And Chandler got untraded.

And Manu's frailty once again reminded us it will never be 2005 again.

What saddens me most about Manu's injuries is that they serve as a reminder that opportunities pass us by. 99% of NBA fans didn't appreciate Manu's playoff performance when it was happening. At the time he was mostly an unknown, an intrigue, a presumed one-hit wonder. Now he's been an All Star, and Barkley's screamed his name a thousand times, and John Hollinger has mentioned his greatness to the unwashed masses, and you can tell by the booing across the league that people now at least know who he is. Now he has the stage, the audience. If he were to lead the Spurs to the 2009 championship while putting up a TS% of 65.1% people would stop. They would contemplate. They would research.

Someone would compose a list of players who never had TS%s that high in the playoffs. It would include names like Shaquille O'Neal. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. Kareem Abdul Jabaar. Lebron James. Dwyane Wade. Tim Duncan. Paul Pierce. Kevin Garnett. Bill Walton. Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain.

Things would be put in perspective.

But the chance for perspective has left us, and a thousand yesterdays don't add up to one today. It's a cruel trick life plays on you: you never know where you're at, you're lucky to know where you've been, and by the time you realize any of this it's too late... you're already gone.

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