As we embark on yet another new year, Manu Ginobili finds himself in much the same state as he has for past dozen years preceding 2014, as the third-best shooting guard in the world and borderline All-Star. An argument can even be made that because of Dwyane Wade's frequent absences due to a balky knee and James Harden's almost pathological aversion to defense, that Ginobili has been the most dependable, consistently good all-around two-guard in the league.
Contrary to what you may expect, I don't think this is good news for the Spurs.
It's safe to say, with one game left on the calender, that Ginobili has been the Spurs' best player for December. In just a shade over 24 minutes a night he's averaged 15.3 points on .512 shooting, while hitting 41 percent from deep and 91 percent from the line, while adding 3.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. The 2.2 turnovers is a bit much, but they're the cost of doing business of having to carry the team more than expected.
Personally, I'm thrilled for Ginobili that he's playing well and making basically every NBA pundit on the planet look foolish for declaring him done during the off-season. This isn't all that different from when I caught Phil Naessens off guard by telling to him, that no, I don't wish Ginobili was a starter and I'm perfectly happy he's coming off the bench.
As I explained to Phil, there's only one basketball on the court and when Tony Parker is in the lineup the ball is in his hands. He's the first option, then Tim Duncan and then maybe Ginobili. Still, playing with the starters is mostly just a pointless exercise for the Argentine maestro -- on the court but not in the game. Wasted minutes. He could be anyone.
To a large extent, Ginobili (and Duncan) kicking butt in the regular season is a metaphor for sharing the court with Parker. It's ultimately meaningless. The more energy they have to expend to beat the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings of the world in December, the less there will be to take on Houston and Oklahoma City in May. While it's certainly a good thing that The Big Three are all playing well -- it sure beats the alternative, like what's going on with tonight's opponent, the Nets -- it's a huge red flag to me that they've still been the three best players on the team, even against bad clubs. The Spurs really shouldn't need heroics from Duncan, Ginobili and Parker to beat the Kings. They shouldn't need to storm back from down nine points in the fourth quarter after allowing 38 in the third.
It's great that Ginobili is playing well. I'm excited that he's proven that he's still capable of this. In January, I'll be excited if he recedes into the background a bit and Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Marco Belinelli (remember when he was a thing?) make more regular appearances in the Your Three Stars section of my game rehashes.