What follows is the translation of Manu's La Nacion column.
First it was the 8th anniversary of the buzzer-beater against Serbia. Then the 10th anniversary of the victory over the US, the 17th of my debut in the Agentine National League (LNB) and now the 10th of my NBA debut. When someone brings up all this milestones it makes me feel old!
I barely remembered that Lakers game but with the videos I saw on the Internet it all started to come back to me. I knew there were a couple of steals near the end of the game and I knew I had connected on my first 3-pointer but I would have bet anything (and lost) that David Robinson was the one that made the pass leading to it; in fact, it was Malik Rose. I'll be more cautious when claiming to know things that happened ten years ago.
Since we are talking about debuts, it makes me really happy to see how well Pablo Prigioni is adapting. It's been a while since we had an Argentine rookie in the NBA; the last one was Luifa (Scola) in 2007. Preseason is not a good indicator of what will happen during the season, when the games matter, but I thought he did great. He wasn't intimidated and made great decisions when he was in at the end of games. He has character and that led to the coach giving him plenty of minutes. Let's hope it stays that way.
As for me, I won't be able to play in our first game of the season against New Orleans, since my back has really been bothering me for two or three days. I suffered from lumbar spasms on the left side. I spent a couple of days were I couldn't even move. I missed a few practices and now I'm starting to get back, seeing how it improves day to day, working on the stationary bike and trying not to force anything. I'm feeling better but there's no reason to risk it this early in the season.
There's not a lot to say about preseason. Games don't really matter since we use them to get in shape and experiment. We'll have to wait a little longer to really see how well the team plays together. We had preseason games where Tony played 8 minutes and I played 12. That's not how it will be when it counts.
What I do think is interesting to note about preseason is how the NBA preps the refs. During the games you get to chat with them and they tell you what they will focus on the upcoming season. When you talk to them face to face, it really makes you understand a lot of what they go through. The hours they spend studying, debating; everything they have to consider during the games. Why one foul might be harder to call than the other. Why they'll call this but not that. They tell you what they look at when calling charges, moving screens, why they call blocking fouls when the defender spread his legs more than normal in their stance. The attention to detail they have is staggering,
That's what makes you aware of the professionalism there is in this league: the hours they devote to the entertainment aspect. Every year they try to call the game in a way that's more appealing to the audience. Here in the US, little time is spent talking about it and yet the officials work their butts off and they definitely don't have an easy job. I really like those talks with refs. And I think this is slowly starting to happen in Argentina, also.
For example, 3 years ago they warned us they were going to be more severe when dealing with complaints and the change was huge, for the better. The first year they called more technicals than usual but then we adjusted and you see a lot less complaining and in a more respectful manner. It was a great call, to do that. It makes you respect the referees' job more, which is an unappreciated one.
Back to the team. With only a few hours to go before the beginning of a new season there's not a lot left to figure out with a team that has been together for this long. Pop made sure we remembered how good we played last season and he also reminded us of those last 4 games that we lost and got us eliminated. We have to find our rhythm, like we had on the 20 game streak. Keep sharing the ball and above all, defend better. That's where our focus should be. We were really good at it in the past and we have to get back to that.