What follows is a translation of Manu Ginobili's latest column for La Nacion.
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I just dropped the kids at school. They've been going for two months now. And the youngest one is growing, too. He'll be six months old next week. I'm enjoying going back to my family routine after not being able to be with them for nine days because of our European tour. But everything is great.
In the beginning of the pre-season there were five very intense days of workouts, just to shake off the rust and get in the same page. Things changed when we traveled to Berlin and Istanbul. I was very excited because it was my first time in those two cities. I've actually been there before but in "Euroleague mode": I arrived, ate, slept, had breakfast, played and left, never having a chance to go sightseeing. So I was thrilled with this very rare opportunity to be in Berlin for five days and in Istanbul for three and a half days.
In Berlin I walked around the city a lot. To be around such recent history is enthralling, it's hard to believe it happened not that long ago. I learned a lot. You watch movies and read books but being there is just different. So that was an interesting trip.
Right, we were also there to play, heh. We weren't good in that first game. We went into it with the wrong mindset and played against an inspired opponent that defended in a way we are not used to. We couldn't adjust and they beat us in incredible fashion. I don't like losing any games and we had never lost to a FIBA team. So obviously no one was happy. But we couldn't make a big deal out of the first game back, especially considering how little pre-season games matter in the US as compared to Argentina or Europe.
We still gave our all and tried to win the game. We knew nothing about Alba Berlin. In fact, we hadn't even talked about them because this early in the pre-season we focus on ourselves. And the truth is they surprised us with their great play and tough defense. It was the game of the year for them and just the first game of our preparation for us. They wanted it more and they beat us. Obviously after dropping a game we weren't planning to lose we tightened things up and went into the next one with more determination and attentiveness. Without really shining, we did play better against Fenerbahce. We have a long ways to go but it's normal to not play at a high level at this point. We still have two weeks to go before our debut and that time will be key.
Istanbul was also very interesting. I'd heard a lot about the Blue Mosque and the Saint Sophia Mosque and wanted to see them. So we all went as a group on a guided tour which also took us to the Topkapi palace, where the sultans lived for a long time. On day two, we all got to do whatever we wanted so I walked around the city. We also had a pretty demanding workout and the next day we played. It was very productive, culturally, since we got to see places we wanted to visit.
The tour was long and it felt even longer not only because of the jet lag but also because it's an exhibition tour. We have a media day, some street exhibitions for the NBA, Special Olympics with the kids, etc. We don't go only to play but to promote the game. And the franchise likes players -especially young players - to have new and rewarding experiences they wouldn't have otherwise.
The downside is that when we are abroad we don't get to work with all the amenities we have in San Antonio, like six rims, rehab areas, our own gym, etc. In Istanbul there were two rims instead of six, so shootaround wasn't the same. And it took us 40 minutes to get to the gym. But the tour has its advantages. Not so much on a conditioning level or basketball-wise but in that we spend time as teammates, talking, sharing and bonding. I think that's cool. The last time we'd done it was in 2007 in Paris. I'm not saying we should do it every year but it's a good thing to do once in a while.
Now that I think about it, I don't have many pre-seasons left. Maybe one, or none. So I doubt I'll get to go on another tour. If I do, I'd love for it to take me to any city in Italy, a country I have a weak spot for. And I would have loved to go with the Spurs to Argentina but it never happened in my 12 seasons. It would have been great because of what it would have meant to take an NBA team there. Hopefully it will happen next year! I'm told people in Argentina are trying but it's not easy. There are a lot of boxes to check, a lot of meetings and guarantees that need to be made. And it's hard to compete with powers like Berlin, Istanbul, Barcelona, Shanghai. But I know the will is there. We'll see if it happens. For me to be there they'd need to hurry or Luifa (Scola) will get to enjoy it with Indiana while I watch from the bleachers!
In summary, I really loved this trip. And I feel pretty good. I started pre-season with pain in several places, the same (areas) that ached during the end of last season. But with treatment they got better. I have a problem on my left Achilles that bothers me in the first minutes of games but it seems the stress fracture is healed. And there was a thing with my little toe that was driving me nuts but it's passing. So I just have to work on my conditioning. I get tired fast and I'm a little slow. Since I couldn't do much during the recess I'm a little behind compared to my teammates and everything is a little harder. But I'm fine with starting from behind and slowly getting better. I'm not in basketball shape but the most important thing right now is to be healthy. Because if you aren't it's hard to get into a rhythm since you start missing games and not training normally. I want to heal completely and then get in playing shape as the games go by.
I'm very excited with the situation with the Argentine basketball association. We are always asking questions and staying informed on the developments. We said change was necessary and now that we are starting to see how things were being done we know we were right. Now comes the time to re-organize things and that's what's happening. It was the right path to take and we are optimistic that things will work out. It was a good decision and it will improve basketball in Argentina.
The same is going to happen with the national league, which is undergoing changes aimed at improving the infrastructure and the competition. Both organizations will have to work together for the good of Argentine basketball, to make it more professional, more serious. And I think that will be accomplished.
Things take time. The audit of the association is almost done.
You've probably seen a photo of Lady Gaga in these past days. What happened was that when the game ended we found out she was on the arena because she was scheduled to sing there the following day. We learned that she was a Spurs fan and that she wanted to meet us -me in particular - because I was one of her favorite players or something. I was like "are you sure she means me?" Her dressing room was 50 feet away from ours. So I went over there, said hey and we talked for a little while. We took a picture and she said she had watched us play and that I was one of her favorite players. I asked her if she was sure she meant me, that I was number 20. And she told me that she did in fact mean me. So I thanked her for the compliment and left.
There's no accounting for taste, I guess.