One of the main reasons that Manu Ginobili has always resonated with Spurs fans is that he's unlike his celebrated teammates Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, who value their privacy and guard their feelings. Ginobili's always been an open book, not only sharing his life on social media but also baring his soul with reporters through the ups and downs of his career. He didn't duck the press after the nightmare at Miami in 2013, and he shared his elation with everyone when the team won their fifth championship last June. He openly admitted to being "devastated," after the overtime loss in Game 6 and wondered aloud if he could gather himself emotionally for a Game 7 two nights later. You just don't hear things like that from typical professional athletes and particularly not from Hall-of-Fame types.
So in that vein it shouldn't be the least bit surprising that Ginobili, about to embark on his 12th season in the NBA at the age of 37, opened up about his struggles in the preseason and spoke about the aging process that he's going through as he ages. After practice Tuesday morning, was brutally honest, reflective, humble, self-deprecating and funny, all at once. As unique as his game has been in this league, his interviews were and continue to be even more refreshing, There's just no one like him.
Because he was so eloquent, I thought this time I'd just use the whole Q & A, since all of it was good and I didn't want to strip away any context.
On whether he thinks the team is ready for the season to start:
"As a team, maybe. Individually I feel like I need 17 more games (laughs) to feel more confident and to get where I want to be. As you can tell, I'm not quite there yet. So I'm excited about these games. I need to play, I need to try to do things and get in a rhythm."
So, you don't think shooting 5-of-26 is going to cut it when the games count?
Umm, probably not. But the good side is that in preseason last year I shot like 68 (percent) and then I started the season at 29 (percent), so I'm trying to reverse the cycle. [He actually shot 20-of-34 last preseason (58.8 percent) and his valley in November seven games into the season had him at 39 percent before he started righting his course.]
You've always been a risk-taking kind of player. Are you trying to tone that down now?
A little bit of is just the learning experience and a lot of it is the ability to do it. I wish sometimes that I could. There are games where I really want to take risks and go coast-to-coast and I can't. (Plays like the dunk against Chris Bosh) happen once every 100 games. Sometimes I really want to, but I can't. So it's a combination of things to calm down and be more mature and choose the moment and sometimes you just can't.
Can you think of any examples where you felt that way?
It happens often, where you want to start and then you say, "Go ahead Kawhi, you do it," or "Here you go, Danny," where it's better to find an open shot for Danny than me going against a big, because I'm not as effective as I was a few years ago. It's a tough situation because you feel like you can sometimes and then you realize you go against a wall and you realize, "eh, probably not," but it's a process and we all eventually get there.
Are your shooting struggles bothering you at all?
It is a little frustrating and even though we're in preseason and nobody really cares if I shoot 1 for 10 or not, I don't like. And I go in at half time and I'm upset and I hit things and I challenge myself and I want to do better. It's frustrating.
Is it harder to shake off the rust now than before?
For sure. This year I had a longer break. Last year I had a long break, but already in August I was practicing with the team in my city and I felt active and I was playing. Here I didn't really play for two months or even barely run so that rust is hard, it's like my barbecue, after ten years without cleaning it I may have to get a new one but in this case I'm just dealing with what I have.
What was different between this off-season of not playing and the previous one?
Last year I didn't play (for the Argentine national team) either, but since I was healthier conditioning-wise and basketball-wise, I played. It was not with the responsibility and not preparing for a game, not with that pressure, but three times a week, four times a week I went and competed and played one-on-one and stuff like that and it keeps you fresh. This time from June 15 to July, August and I got here early September but they didn't let me at the beginning to play so I only played at the end of September, so it's three, four months without handling the ball or playing pick-and-roll or guarding anybody one-on-one.
Were you at least encouraged by the other aspects of your game last night, such as leading the team in rebounding and assists?
Yesterday I felt much better. I was a little tired the game before, combined with the fact that I'm not feeling great yet, it was awful. I felt better yesterday but just the shot was not falling. But the thing is in practice I am shooting well. I'm feeling confident. Maybe it's that in the game you have to shoot when your heart rate is at 175, not here when you're set and with more time so I guess it's just a matter of working on it.
Do you ever wish that you could find your game in private, without having to do it in front of the fans?
Yeah, sometimes, but it doesn't bother me at this point. When the season starts and we are playing for real wins I wish I could have more time to practice or scrimmage but preseason here is relaxed and a good time to where if you're 0-for-8 the team still wants you to do good so the whole set up helps you to get there so even if I keep shooting poorly, I'm going to keep going, especially these next two games. Then, if you're in the season and you're struggling, you may stop and find a teammate but now is the moment to try and find your shot.
Do you feel like your conditioning will catch up in time for the start of the season?
I'm better. I felt much better yesterday than in Europe for example and considering that I'm not going to play 30 minutes during the season I think I'll be pretty close by the beginning of the season. We'll see what Pop decides to do in these next two games but I think yesterday I played 23 and another couple of games at that amount of minutes is really going to help.