Manu Ginobili has confirmed via social media that he will play with the Argentine national team in the upcoming basketball World Cup to be held in Spain.
Estoy adentro! See you in Spain 2014! https://t.co/uVJPL8M2Ny
— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) junio 20, 2014
Ginobili always maintained he wasn't officially retired from international competition and that his decision was going to be based on his health. After suffering from a couple minor hamstring problems, he finished the season healthy and playing at a high level. So his decision makes a lot of sense.
But as a Spurs fan, I really, really don't like it. Ginobili had an injury-mired season in 2012/13 and seemed drained mentally and emotionally. His problems seemed to stem from having played basketball basically nonstop that year, as he was part of the Argentine national team in the Olympics in 2012. R.C. Buford actually went as far as saying that the reason Manu was better this year was because he sat out last summer and could focus on training his body differently. So for him to go back to playing in the summer a year later seems reckless.
At 37, it's only reasonable for Ginobili to simply retire from FIBA play if he intends to continue to play at the highest level in the NBA. It's just not wise for him to do this. Not at this point in his career and not with the Spurs' championship window still barely open. He's won Olympic medals. He's taken Argentine basketball to unexpected heights. What's to be gained by playing in a World Cup? It's not like old days, when a medal was all but guaranteed. Manu might sacrifice his body for a quarter-finals exit. It makes so little sense.
But I'm not just a Spurs fan, I'm also an Argentine. And that part of me is just so excited about his decision.
The Argentine national team played a huge, huge part in Ginobili's development. The Manu we know now started to bloom in 2001, when the Golden Generation was starting to emerge. He honed his leadership skills there. He got his first taste of playing with and against the elite there. Any debt he owed has obviously been paid in full by now but I can understand why Manu still wants to be a part of something that was so special to him. And the Spurs knew that this was a possibility when they re-signed him last summer. There is no betrayal here.
Why play in a World Cup? That finals loss against Yugoslavia in Indianapolis haunts the Golden Generation. They should have won that. I'm only being slightly hyperbolic if I compare it to game six. They were one good official and a non-Super Saiyan version of Dejan Bodiroga from hoisting that trophy. Then they were a missed Nocioni corner three from going back to the finals. I understand why Manu would want to give it one more go. And even if winning it all doesn't seem realistic, this would be the perfect capper for Manu's FIBA career, a passing of the torch to the next generation of Argentine players on the team in Spain.
If I, just a spectator, have such mixed feelings about the decision, imagine what Manu went through. It surely wasn't easy. A lot of people in Argentina, people who know nothing about basketball, turned on Manu after he sat out a couple of competitions. And the team truly needs him, especially since Carlos Delfino might not make it due to injury. At the same time, when the general manager of the club paying you comes out and indirectly says that you should not play any more summers, that carries weight. And he's aware that next season might be his last with the Spurs.
What I'm trying to say is that while Manu's decision might be controversial, I'm sure it wasn't made lightly. Ginobili knows the risks and is hoping for the best. So I guess that's what I'll do too.
The World Cup will be played from August 30 to September 14 in Spain. Tony Parker will not be playing in the event but Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw are expected to.
We will have more coverage on the tournament as it approaches.