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Manu Ginobili on putting off retirement: "I can still contribute"

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In an interview with Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Manu Ginobili talked about the factors that affected his decision to keep playing, his role next season and how he's preparing to face retirement when the time comes.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Manu Ginobili recently sat down with Argentine newspaper La Nacion to discuss his decision to keep playing. The video of the full 25-minute interview in Spanish can be found here. La Nacion also offered a condensed version for its print version. What follows is a translation of that article.

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Do you have more responsibilities after deciding to keep playing?

No, just the opposite. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard have more responsibilities. It's going to be easier for me, just because of what happened the last few years and because of a natural decrease in minutes. I'm not playing even 23 or 24 minutes anymore. I can't be on the court for 82 games at 30 minutes per game, no matter how much I want to do that. I consider myself important for the team as a playmaker and a leader but not so much in terms of my effect in the game. I know I'm less decisive than I used to be so I don't have high expectations. Three or four years ago, how the team fared depended largely on me. Now it's like, "Leonard, take over." Or Parker or Aldridge or whoever. It's changed a lot.

But you have become more important in terms of keeping the team running

Yeah, that has become easier. If Popovich asks me to score 20 points and play 30+ minutes all the time -- I can't do that anymore. The other thing feels more natural to me. After 13 years I know the system as well as Pop, Tim and Tony. It's ingrained. I know how Pop thinks, so I can talk to other players before he does. In those moments when he's going mad and is about to say something inappropriate, I can stop him and let him know we've already pointed out that mistake. That knowledge makes things go smoothly.

You talked to Duncan and Popovich before making your decision. Can you tell us what they said to you?

What Pop said, no. What Tim said, yes, because it was pretty much the same thing I told him. Tim was more determined that I was. His apprehension had to do with his family life. That was the biggest thing for him. That's not a problem for my kids yet. They don't really know what's going on, what I do or why. My sons think playing basketball, being on TV or on a billboard are normal things. They were born into it. If we are walking in a park and someone stops me to get a picture, they see it as normal. I even ask them sometimes if they know why they ask me for pictures and they tell me they have no idea. They don't understand that sports is a very exclusive field. It's natural for them to see me leave for four or five days. Now if my wife leaves, then everything crumbles.

It's intriguing to know what Pop said

Nothing that interesting. Dry and to the point, like it always is with Pop.

But did he help convince you to return?

Yes, of course. Because had he told me -- like I know he's told others -- that I wasn't cut out for this or that anymore, that I'm not the same as before, that I needed to focus on other interests, things would have been different. But for him to want me back badly enough to try to convince me gave me a big push.

Playing under such a special coach, did you ever consider becoming a coach yourself?

No. I like basketball a lot. The strategy and the mental aspect behind everything. But it's a really hard job. You have to be a little crazy to do it. What happens if I want to take a year off? These people can never relax because they are working constantly. We go out, play or train and that's it. They have to be available all the time, building the team, during the competition, on preseason, during the draft. It's really exhausting.

Do you at least see yourself working in basketball as a part of a team?

I can maybe see myself working for the franchise. But not with as much responsibility. I'm at a point in my life in which I value my time over everything else. I don't think I'll be willing to work from July to June. I might consider doing something that doesn't carry a lot of responsibility or something that isn't time-consuming.

How much does winning drive you at this point?

Not as much as it did two years ago. The loss against Miami in 2013 changed me significantly. I'm calmer. I achieved that maturity later in my life and my career. There are losses, and then there are losses -- and 2013 was crushingly frustrating.

If I'm doing this, if I'm sticking around it's not to be comfortable or tour the U.S. It's because I have big goals and want to relive the feelings I experienced during the best moments of my career. It really helps to be in a place in which they treat me so well, where there's always a chance to win and there's an amazing group of people.

Have you learned more from defeat than victory?

Absolutely, yes. It's amazing how losses can humble you, dignify you and push you to work harder. Victory is what we are all chasing and it gives you the highest highs but it also relaxes you. That defeat in 2013 led me directly to the win in 2014, and it's not the first time that has happened to me. Some losses hurt you so much that they make you give your best next time around. You don't want luck to be a factor.

Did you ever imagine you would play 14 seasons in the NBA?

No, not at all. Especially since I was 25 years old when I arrived. Tony Parker never doubted he would play 14 seasons in the NBA. It made a lot of sense for him to do that. But I arrived later on in my life and with a lot of national team appearances and little rest. After my first two years in San Antonio there were articles that said I would not play past 32 years of age because of my style of play and never stopping. But things went the way they went and I can't believe the team still wants me and thinks I can play at age 38. I'm not playing because they feel bad for me. I think I can still contribute a lot to the team.

When people say you are the best Argentine sportsman ever, how does that make you feel?

It's the same as the last thing. I wonder how and why it happened. I couldn't even imagine being in the conversation as a kid. No one does when they are just starting out. I never thought I'd play in the NBA, either. No one from Argentina had. Why would I be the one to do it? Things just happen and you appreciate them when you take a moment to think about it. At 38 years of age I'm looking for another NBA championship. If anyone had told me that was going to happen, I would have thought they were crazy.

Bruce Bowen recently said that the way you treat fans has humbled a lot of other NBA players.

Well, I do what I think is right. If you ask me whether I like signing autographs, I'd say no. I'd rather talk to someone for a little while than signing something. But I know that's valuable to people, especially at the arena. People made the effort to come see me and they say nice things. That's when I take my time and do it. If I'm at a park with my kids and someone asks for an autograph, it doesn't sit well with me. I feel like it takes away from paying attention and caring for my children. I still do it the vast majority of the time.

Could your family affect your decision to keep going?

I was ready to make their opinion final. Had my wife told me she wanted me to spend a year at home, I would have considered it and it might have tipped the scales. But they told me that they were OK with it. She even told me she wasn't ready to face my retirement, because it would have affected her as well. It's a lot of years doing the same thing. Retirement is traumatic for an athlete. When the season ended I wanted to take some time. There were days in which I seriously considered it and others, not so much. I had a lot of doubts but if you decide to retire, it's impossible to go back.

Are you preparing yourself for that time?

Yes, I've been doing it for a while. Not in terms of how I approach my work, because I'm still doing it. But mentally I'm prepared. I'm obviously going to miss the locker room, competing, just the adrenaline of the games. That's inevitable. Nothing I do will ever give me the rush that preparing for a finals game does, but I feel more ready than I was four years ago.