What follows is a translation of the column written by Manu Ginobili that was published on Argentine newspaper La Nacion on March 4.
* * * * *
The truth is it wasn't a satisfactory Rodeo Road Trip. It wasn't disastrous but it wasn't looking good. We didn't play at the level we were hoping for and we lost a couple of close games that we shouldn't have against Toronto and Utah but alas, it happened. We also played poorly against Portland and Utah so there were some concerns but we managed to pretty up the results with needed wins in that last back-to-back. We ended the stretch 4-5, the only losing record I remember us having during the rodeo road trip, but it could have been worse since we were 2-5 at one point. I didn't like how we were playing. We were stuck, lacking confidence and our spirits were low. But on the last two games -- the second half against Sacramento and the whole game against the Suns -- things started to change. That allowed us to be a bit more optimistic about the end of a trip that was really rough. The last 12 days seemed interminable. To give you an idea, when I left Luca (Note: Manu's youngest son) wasn't walking and now he is.
When I said we weren't a playoff team it was something I truly felt. I had several meetings with my teammates in which we talked about it all. We were being very passive and that in a conference such as ours could mean dropping in the standings. It was what I was thinking -- there was no subliminal message or anything else going on. The fact that we've won the last games doesn't mean our problems are gone, but we have taken a step in the right direction. Of course, we'll need to prove it during the next few games.
It's possible we are just more sensitive or generally in lower spirits this year. Some losses, the unexpected ones, hit us harder than they used to. After games that slip away because of a rebound or a bad shot, we are much quicker to lower our heads. I think after the losses against the Clippers and Golden State we didn't get so down on ourselves but the one against Utah, in which we played very poorly, got to us. So we tried to get back on track against Portland but nothing was working. We kind of hit rock bottom. And when that happens you just push against it to rise again. There was nothing magical or anything involving Xs and Os that got us playing better. We just saw the bad situation we were in and something from within us pushed us to do it.
Every game we face teams with younger, bigger, more athletic players that want to beat the champions. That makes it harder. We've been lucky because the moves the Suns made and the injuries to Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis prevented the seventh place from being in jeopardy despite our struggles. True, we've also had injuries but we've gotten everyone back and are still not close to our level. We have a great opportunity to improve now because after so many days on the road we have 15 straight days at home, which is great.
What I'm hoping to see now is for the team really dig deep and give everything it can. We haven't showed concrete signs of being able to yet. A game and a half is not enough proof. It's not about flipping a switch as the playoffs near but I do believe we can be a factor in the postseason. I think I only experienced something like this a couple of times. I remember a year in which we were seventh and one in which we were sixth. So this is something atypical that we need to figure out how to face.
We just can't continue to think about repeating as champions or reaching last season's form because it's possible we played at a superlative level we won't ever be able to match. We do believe we can improve and come close it, though. But if we are expecting to win every game playing like we used to, that's not going to happen and we are going to get frustrated. I think the best mindset for us right now is to go into games thinking about grinding out wins. We need to forget about last season and start over from scratch. We have to be humble, with the knowledge that nothing will be easy for us, that everyone else is younger, more athletic and in some cases more talented than us.
I'm feeling good. I wasn't at my best in the trip. I played a couple of good games and that's it. Just like the team on the whole, I wasn't a disaster but I wasn't great either. It's actually hard to find anyone who played great. We were all swimming in a sea of mediocrity. I think Tim killed it against the Clippers but beyond him, from Tony to any of the deep bench players, no one stood out. We definitely need more guys playing well if we want to climb the standings. I still feel we are not valuing every possession. We are not at the place we were in last year's playoffs, when every possession felt like a life and death situation. We are not feeling the need to go all out and that's why things are harder for us now.
Tim, Tony and I - well, the whole team really - talked about things a lot during the last leg of the trip and we came to the conclusion that everyone needs to play better but especially the three of us. If that happens it would really help us get better but we still feel like the whole team needs to be focused. We are hoping that after this game and a half in which we showed good things we'll start to play looser, without the burden of trying to be who we were last season.