As you probably remember, Manu Ginobili received an exit physical from the Spurs in which a stress fracture was found in his fibula. The Spurs doctors set a timetable of eight weeks for it to heal, which guaranteed Manu was going to miss the World Cup to be held in Spain in late August. Manu sought a second opinion and an independent doctor was more optimistic, setting the timetable at four to five weeks. Manu communicated to the Spurs that he would have the tests redone on the 25th and, if the injury was better, he would represent Argentina in the summer. That was 20 days ago.
Recently Manu gave an interview to a local Bahia Blanca radio and said he's very optimistic he will play in the FIBA World Cup, as transcribed by Olé and La Nación. Ginobili said the area doesn't hurt to the touch like it did at the end of the NBA season and he believes the injury might have healed. He will have the tests redone not on the 25th but the week after*. If the injury is not better, he will sit out the tournament. But if it is, he'll start ramping up his workouts, which up until this point have been limited to riding the stationary bike to avoid impact.
And here's when things get murky. The head doctor of the Argentine Basketball Association Diego Grippo said he was confident Manu will play based on the fact that he has played through the injury before, as transcribed from an interview with the radio show Uno Contra Uno by La Nación newspaper. Grippo went on to say that they will have new tests and will compare them to the previous test results to see how the injury has evolved and figure out where they go from there. But reading between the lines it seems Manu might be ready to play through the injury again, just like he did for the Spurs.
According to plugged-in Argentine journalists, the Spurs were pretty adamant about Manu not playing. Ginobili held his ground and got Pop's approval to make his decision when he was ready. What really complicates things is that there seems to be an understandable distrust from Manu towards the Spurs' doctors. He has basically come out and said a few times in the press that they are not impartial. Obviously neither is Grippo but there is a level of trust, since he has been with the national team for a long time. So basically there are two biased doctors and one independent doctor involved. And the decision will be made by Manu. It's a very strange situation.
If I were to guess how things will play out, I believe the new tests would have to reveal a setback with the injury -- or at least only minimal improvement -- for Manu to sit out the World Cup. Ginobili has been confident he was going to play from the beginning and is now more optimistic than ever. The national team's physician is confident. And it does look like the initial prognosis might have been so conservative as to put pressure on him to not play -- or at least circumstances suggest that's what Manu thinks. Ginobili is determined to play if he is physically able, and that might include playing through an injury. So it really looks like Manu will play, at least from the information available at the moment.
It's really unfortunate how bad most of the parties here look. If Manu is right and team doctors exaggerated the recovery time at the front office's request, a bond of trust might have broken. When he hints toward this, Manu doesn't seem necessarily angry, just like it's part of the business. But that initial impression plus the opinion from the independent doctor in Chicago probably fuel Ginobili's optimism. Manu hasn't played in over a month and if the tests reveal that the injury is in fact better, the Spurs will come out of this looking pretty poorly, especially considering they had no problem with Manu playing through the stress fracture through the playoffs.
If the injury is not fully healed and Manu decides to play through it, Ginobili and the national team doctors will appear reckless. At this point it truly seems like Manu is the one pushing to play but, as I've mentioned before, there are outside pressures nudging him in that direction as well. The latest comes from a deep institutional crisis in the Argentine Basketball Association. Poor management has left the association with debt and it had a hard time securing insurance for the players who will play in the FIBA Americas championship in Venezuela. The players traveled coach and had a seven hour layover and there have been rumors about a boycott. In that environment, a lot of eyes are on Manu, who has already expressed his disappointment with management.
So we have: a) a franchise that, at least in the eyes of the player, has exaggerated the severity of an injury to encourage him to rest instead of playing for his beloved national team; b) a national team that desperately needs Manu, even if he has to play through injury; c) a headstrong star that is usually rational but has no problem taking risks with his own body and ; d) Argentine basketball at a crossroads, just as the moment approaches for the Golden Generation to pass the torch. To call the situation merely complicated would be a severe understatement.
Hopefully, once the tests are done, we'll have a better understanding of where Manu stands. Ginobili has said that even though he wants to play, he will sit out the tournament if he's still injured. If he's healed in these past 35 days, then he will play, just as he planned to before finding out the extent of the injury. And if the tests are inconclusive, we have no option but to wait and hope Manu weighs the risks versus the rewards and makes the right decision for him, whatever that ends up being. Whatever the case, we'll know soon enough.
*new information has emerged that indicates Manu will in fact have the tests redone on the 25th, as originally planned.