The debut of Stampler's Mailbag

Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

It's back! By no demand whatsoever. Let's see what you weirdos asked me in the past couple of months. I'm sure there are a couple of juicy ones in here...

Q: Hey Stampler. Big fan and I've really been enjoying your articles. They're so much more well-written and entertaining than everyone else's on PtR it's not even funny. It's like the difference between Tony Parker and our second-best point guard, whoever the [expletive deleted] that is.

Anyway, my question is how you think Manu is going to do this year and what we should expect out of him. Some other websites I won't name are REALLY down on him and we know how the playoffs went for him and he's 36 and always hurt so I admit I felt pretty nervous when I heard he signed for two years and $14 million. At the same time, I LOVE watching him play so I'm glad he's back. Should I be? I know you're a huge Manu homer, but try to make me feel better about this anyway, thanks.

- Gino-loving George

A: Well George, I admit that Ginobili got a couple of million dollars more per year than I thought he would, though I don't think he's necessarily going to be overpaid. I just thought it'd be more of a "hometown discount" kind of deal since the Spurs were essentially bidding against themselves, if Ginobili's many assertions that San Antonio was the only place he wanted to be.

Still, I can't say that I'm "upset" at Manu at all, because, well, I'm older than 14 and my I.Q. is higher than 80. 1) He's got to think of himself and his family first and foremost and he's entitled to seek as much money as he can in the limited window he's got left to earn it. 2) All things considered, he's been vastly underpaid for the totality of his Spurs career, even factoring in this contract. From 2005-2010 he was pretty much a "max" level player in terms of worth. 3) There was no guarantee as far as I can see that Andrei Kirilenko would've been a Spur had Ginobili taken a couple million less and I'm almost positive that no proposition was ever framed to Ginobili or his agents in such a fashion, as in, "Well, you know, if you help us out here we've got this guy waiting to sign..."

As far as I'm concerned, Manu is on scholarship. There's basically nothing he could do, short of throwing games on purpose, that would get me to sour on him (though of course certain people are convinced he did exactly that, but they're cretins).

Having said all of that, I'm cautiously optimistic that Ginobili will rebound from his 19.05 PER last season to right around what Hollinger's formula predicts, in the high 21-ish range. Interestingly, Hollinger predicts that Tim Duncan will fall off a cliff, with Parker joining him in the free-fall, meaning that our big-nosed, injury-prone 36-year-old shooting guard coming off a bummer of playoffs individually, is projected to lead the Spurs in PER next season. Maybe the math is just off and Hollinger forgot to carry the derp, but I'm not ready to go that far with Manu.

I do predict that both his assists and turnovers will drop and that his shooting percentages will improve, however, now that he's got Marco Belinelli to take some of the ball-handling chores away from him and he can be more of a spot-up shooter.

Ultimately though, I think how Ginobili plays will largely depend on his health. If he can avoid any serious injuries to the lower half of his body, he'll eventually figure out a way to get into rhythm, and he's always been smart enough to work around whatever athletic limitations or shooting slump that he's going through. I think he'll settle back in to his usual mode of production that looks efficient and blows the geeks away but looks rather pedestrian to people who are stuck in the 1980's "counting stats" era. You know, dinosaurs like Mike Wilbon.

Can Ginobili stay healthy? For a full season the odds are slim, but hopefully he'll just have the standard injuries --a two-week sprained ankle here, a couple game back spasm layoff there -- and nothing major like a torn ligament, a broken bone or a pulled everything. We can only knock on wood and hope for the best. So that's my cop-out, fence-straddling answer: If healthy, he'll be good. If not, he won't.

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Q: Hello Aaron, I'm so happy you're writing regularly at Pounding the Rock again. Reading your quips brings a smile to my face as I nibble my croissants and drink my breakfast wine. I'm writing to you because, like Tony Parker, I too am a Frenchman now living and working in Texas and I read that once again he's had an injury scare. I am very torn. On one hand I'm very proud to be French and it thrills me that playing for the national team means so much to Parker, but on the other hand I cheer for the Spurs as well and I know he is risking a lot in terms of health in these off-season games when he should be resting his body instead. What do you think of all this?

- Pierre in Paris (Texas).

A: Pierre, mon frere, I think we just have to look at the available evidence on hand and conclude that perhaps your countryman just isn't the sharpest knife in the elevator that doesn't glow the brightest, if you know what I mean. We are talking about a fellow who thought it'd be a swell idea to fall for and marry a Hollywood starlet seven years his senior, even though the percentages of athlete/celebrity marriages lasting are about the same as a Parker three-pointer from the wing.

And there was this bit of ridiculousness.

Parker then thought could get away with stepping out on said starlet, even though the paparrazzi was hounding him pretty much nonstop ever since the two of them because a public couple, just waiting to pounce on him for doing exactly that. Having a texting relationship with the ex-wife of an ex-teammate? Not smart, under any circumstances. Finally, Parker opened a nightclub, the kind of business that fails 90 percent of the time, even when managed by smart people who know what they're doing and put all their heart and soul into it, except he built his in the middle of a freakin' strip mall and let his inexperienced brothers run it. It failed within a year.

Nuevelounge

How did this fail?

Then again, Parker is doing pretty well for himself, all things considered. If you know me at all you'd quickly realize that I'm the last person in the world qualified to tease any guy for falling for the wrong lady. And Parker, a Hall-of-Fame lock at this point, will hardly be needing to beg for change just because his business went under. He still has more in between his couch cushions than I made in the last decade. Oh, and he's not exactly hurting for female companionship these days either. Parker's gonna be just fine.

Would I prefer that he didn't play international ball? Selfishly, of course. Especially at this stage of his career. He had a rather long playoff run, as you may remember, and happened to get hurt right at the end, in a very unfortunate bit of timing. Still, I'd be a hypocrite if I shook my finger disapprovingly at Parker after cheerleading for Manu's international exploits for Argentina all these years. We just have to accept that international competitions are a very big part of who these guys are, that it means very much to them and that they can't just turn the competitor switch to "off" when the Spurs season ends. I for one think it makes them more interesting as athletes and people, it gives another dimension of them to cover, and I'm all for these guys being as interesting as possible in a world of so many blah cliché athletes.

One thing that we can't ignore is that captaining his French team has been a boon for Parker as a Spur. Two offseasons ago Pop noticed how much more assertive Parker was playing for his country, how much more of a leader he was, and he challenged him to play with that much passion for the Spurs. That challenge paid off with the two best seasons of Parker's career. I believe Ginobili's Olympic run in 2004, where he was the MVP of Argentina's gold medal-winning side, also boosted his confidence to a whole new level and it paid off handsomely for the Spurs the very next season and beyond. It's just hard for any Spurs fan to argue that international ball has adversely affected anyone on the team besides Duncan, but the FIBA game doesn't favor bigs.

Mainly I'm in favor of France playing international games because it'll stop Boris Diaw from spending the entire summer gorging on pastries. Again, let's just hope for the best.

*   *   *

Q: Aaaargh! Why are you guys continuing to torture us with Game 6 recaps and all these articles about the Finals? Don't you all understand that was the worst experience of our entire lives? I'd rather get kicked in the nuts a hundred times in a row than relive that game again. I wouldn't wish that ending on my worst enemy. I like your writing, Stamp, but can you knock it off before you drive me into a loony bin?

- Raging Randall

A: I feel your pain, Randall, believe me. I can't speak for the others but I write about Game 6 (and eventually Game 7, when I can eventually make myself watch it) for a variety of reasons, none of which has to do with torturing you or anyone else here.

1) I write about it because, on a strict basketball level, it's absolutely fascinating. It's one of the most history-shifting games of the last 20 years, like it or not. It's impossible to argue that it wasn't. It irrevocably shifted how generations of people will view Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley. It's a point I wish I made better during my "How Will History Remember the 2012-13 Spurs?" article and one I'll explore more fully sometime in the future, whether you like it or not. I just can't stop thinking about it, because there are so many angles. People will write thesis papers about it someday.

2) The morbid way it ended is fit to be rehashed and debated, ad nauseam. It was just an all-time classic game, any way you slice it, Shakespearean in all of its elements in the best and worst of ways. You know you're dealing with a fantastic game when you can talk about it with friends and the conversation leads to politics, religion, physics, time-travel, superpowers, sacrifice, and the greatest tragedies in literature and mortality. To ignore all that is like telling you to not think of a pink elephant right now.

3. Don't know about you, but writing for me is more of a job than a hobby. It's what I do. It's who I am. It's cathartic, it's emotionally and spiritually rewarding. Lots of folks have told me that reading this stuff after Game 6 had the opposite effect for them that it did for you, that it actually helps them cope. For many, it helps to realize that they're not the only ones suffering, feeling pain. Misery loves company and all that.

By the way, I never understood that whole "I wouldn't wish 'X' on my worst enemy," saying. Anybody who says stuff like that is the kind of nice, friendly, easygoing person who doesn't make enemies. That's hard for me to relate to because I make like, five enemies a day. For my worst enemy, a hundred kicks to the nuts would just be a way to wake them up out of bed before the real fun stuff -- root canals, kidney stones, liver & mayonnaise sandwiches, Barbara Streisand concerts -- starts. I would ABSOLUTELY wish the ending of Game 6 on my worst enemy.

Who, conveniently enough, happens to be LeBron James.

Q: No, seriously, why do you write about Game 6 so much? Isn't there anything else to talk about?

- Wayne in Waco

A: There's only so many power polls, DeJuan Blair memorials and schedule conspiracy manifestos I can write, Wayne. You'll forgive me if I can't summon a sonnet worth of praise on Jeff Pendergraph just yet. Frankly, I'm amazed I've written as much as I already have about stuff besides Game 6. A whole column on Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown? If you told me I'd write that last February, I'd have thought you were a bit too much into your "Breaking Bad" fandom.

I can tell you there are some fun columns in the works and while a couple will deal with the Finals, there will be some fresh angles J.R. Wilco and I will be tackling. And if you don't want to read them, that's fine. We'll just discount that off your subscription price to PtR, okay?

Q: Aaron, please tell me you caught DeJuan Blair's comments where he said the Spurs would've won the Finals if he played and Tracy McGrady's comments on First Take where he said he should've played over Manu. I'm amazed you haven't given us a 4,000 word rant about this yet.

- Bowled-over Barry

A: I'm almost insulted, Barry. I wouldn't waste my time justifying such idiocy. First off, as a rule, I'd rather watch a snuff film than First Take. Secondly, athletes are the least objective people on the planet, especially on the topic of their own play. As crappy as you or I think Blair and McGrady (well, the current one) are as basketball players, you have to realize they have loads of people -- flunkies, floozies, hangers-on and jock-sniffers -- who are in their ear, telling them how awesome they are, right this second. I bet if you or I heard half the compliments that Blair hears on the average day, we'd think we could beat James in a game of one-on-one.

The honest truth is that I agree with Blair's comment, on a literal context. I would've rather had him out there on that final play than Diaw. I trust him more to get that rebound. Of course, I'd rather have had Duncan out there over both of them by a factor of like, eight million. Overall though, Blair's a pretty below average player who is atrocious in his own end and too short to be of use defensively, even when he does know where to be, which he rarely does. McGrady, meanwhile, made as many baskets for the Spurs as I did, so yeah, I'd rather go with Ginobili over some guy who nobody in the NBA thinks can play anymore, thanks.

Q: Stamp, I know it's August, but I'm already going crazy waiting for the season to start. Despite the tragic, awful way the finals ended, it made me prouder than ever to be a Spurs fan and I can't wait to see them again. Quick, give me a gut, non-homer prediction right now: do you think we're gonna get a Finals rematch or fall short of that?

- Antsy Alexei

A: A rematch is certainly a possibility, my comrade, but my ample gut isn't feeling it. Ironically, I think the Spurs have a better shot of getting back than Miami does. The East is just too stacked with the Pacers, the Bulls and surely your favorite Eastern team, the Nyets. I think the West is deeper 5-12, but they're not as strong up top. I'd give the Spurs something like a 40 percent chance of going back and the Heat a 35 percent chance, so the rematch would be in the 14 percent range. Right this second, I'll take Spurs-Pacers, because I'm a gigantic, biased homer incapable of any rational objectivity when it comes to the Spurs.

Of course, come November and a home loss to the Clippers, I'll be like "oh god it's all over." Can't wait.

Q: Aaron, I've been a fan of your writing forever and really respect not only your Spurs knowledge but your basketball chops in general. I'm wondering though if you are as equally intelligent about football. I'm guessing not, because I just can't fathom how one human could be so smart about more than one thing. Why, your head would have to be the size of a watermelon. Anyway, I would really appreciate taking your money in fantasy football. Do you have a league I can join or are you chicken?

- Lucky Luc in Lubbock

A: As it happens Luc, I am thinking of starting up a Yahoo league. I've never done an auction before, so I'm gonna try that for the first time. It's also gonna be a points-per-reception and there will be at least one individual defensive player. The draft will be at night, probably on the Monday before the season starts. How much the sign-up fee will be is to be determined. If you're interested, shoot me an email at michael.erler1 at gmail.com.

*   *   *

Oh, and since I've already given out my email, now is as good a time as any to let y'all know that you can write to me with actual questions for me to answer so that I can do a real mailbag in the future, instead of this obviously fake one where I made up all the questions.

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