What follows is a translation of some excerpts from Manu Ginobili's column from La Nacion newspaper published on December 4. Dated references to games against the Brooklyn Nets and the Memphis Grizzlies at the beginning and end of the column have been edited out. The rest has been left intact.
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It's good for the team to see some players that didn't get a lot of minutes last season become more confident on a bigger role. Aron Baynes and Cory Joseph stand out, not because they weren't good enough in the past but because they didn't have opportunities. Baynes was a little anxious the first few games but has adapted well to a bigger role. He's played well lately. And we know Cory is a great player. Last season he saw his role shrink a bit because Patty Mills was a difference-maker. But the year before he was backing up Tony Parker, he got the minutes in the finals. He's a very well-rounded player, tough, a rugged defender who improved greatly his mid-range shot. That's one of our strengths: Having such a deep roster of well-coached players who have spent a lot of time together.
I think we need to improve a little bit on every area. Reaching the level we showed last season takes time. Wearing the same jersey, with the same number on your back doesn't guarantee that you'll play the same way. There's a process to it. We had three months off, there were injuries. We need to find a way to fit in with each other again. We haven't been good on offense lately but that's normal. It's very hard to play 82 games with a playoff intensity. Your legs are not always under you, your head is not into it; it takes work to get there. But I think we are where we expected to be at this point. You always want to play better and we know we can. We have over 60 games left to try and do that.
The start of the year had some oddities and one of them was Ettore (Messina) coaching the team for two games. I'm obviously very happy he's joined the staff. I have a great appreciation for him, as a coach and a person. It's always great to have people like that around. He's still adjusting, trying to get to know Pop and the sets better. But he's a great, experienced coach who has gone through every possible position within a staff and is adapting to a new structure. When Pop had to miss those games because of some medical reason and Ettore took over, you could tell in the first game that he was a little nervous but he carried himself well anyway, and in the second game too. It wasn't easy because he was in charge of players that were new to him and it's always challenging to coach a system you are still assimilating. I think he's happy with his decision and he gets along great with Pop and the rest of the team.
Everything that has happened has been good for us and I think I'm more calm and able to enjoy things now. A lot of factors go into it (...). The fact that I know it's the last years -- I don't know how many -- and that time's running out has changed the way I think about things. Winning the title, which lifted a weight from our shoulders and gave us closure was important. But the truth is the change started earlier, after we lost in the finals. That year was rough for me so I tried to slow down, lower the pressure and the expectations I put on myself so I could enjoy the day-to-day more. I think I succeeded in doing that last season and things went well. The same is happening this year.
I try to put things in perspective: There are not a lot of 37-year-old players left in the league, even fewer in my position and in such an ideal spot, being a part of a team that plays as well as we do. Not only that but we also all care for each other, which contributes to create a great general situation. Why should I be beating myself up? It makes no sense. So yeah, I learned to be less demanding, less dramatic and to enjoy the day-to-day stuff.
That's why we have to keep working; realizing that we have to give it our best every night; understanding that if we are not focused and playing our best basketball we won't win games or we'll win some but won't win it all. If we want to reach that level we had in the past, we need to be more consistent. (...) We'll also have to be take care of ourselves because it's a tough month for us. We'll play 18 games in December so we need to stay healthy and motivated. We have to do everything we can to be at our best shape every night. It's a long process, there's a long road ahead and we are facing a very demanding month.