What follows is a translation of a column written by Manu Ginobili and published by Argentine newspaper La Nacion on Jan. 9.
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I feel like we are doing better than any of us thought we would this early in the season. We have a great record, with an almost 84 percent of wins. We are playing well. The game against the Knicks might not have been our best one but sometimes that happens, since we were winning by 20. We are in a good stretch. We've played some games without Tony Parker and others without both Tony and LaMarcus Aldridge and we've won comfortably.
We have improved on offense and declined a little on defense, but that tends to happen over 82 games. We relied heavily on our defense for the first 30 games or so, which was very solid and better than we had expected, considering we had to integrate some key players in Aldridge and David West. We have one of the best defenses in the league and that puts us in a good place. We just have to sustain it now. It doesn't matter who is doing well on Jan. 10. We need to improve for when it counts.
We are playing well, winning by 20 points or more with a good home record (22-0) because we have a lot of talent, a lot of good players. When we face quality teams, their first unit sometimes gives us a hard time, sometimes it's their second unit but it's hard to find teams who can sustain that level for 48 minutes. And we are actually doing that thanks to our depth, which gives us an edge. Not a lot of teams have the luxury of having the personnel we have.
The fact that we are defending as well as we are allows us to play looser on offense, since we don't have to take clutch shots or defend perfectly on the last play of the game. The game against the Knicks was the exception because we were lucky that last Calderon shot missed, but we haven't been in that situation a lot. Luck has not been a big factor this season.
We have Leonard, who is just an animal on defense, one of the best in the league; Tony, who tightened up on that end and is taking tougher challenges and pressuring point guards better; Danny Green, who has been showing great improvement during the season, plus the usual presence of Tim Duncan and now LaMarcus Aldridge, who is very long and strong, grabs rebounds and bothers shots with his length, so we have a huge edge. We have great talent and that makes a difference.
We've also gotten good production from players that surprised us. Jonathon Simmons was sent down to the D-League because he didn't have a good start, was unfamiliar with the team and had a lot of energy but couldn't find the right role. Yet when he got back from Austin he was very useful to us. He gives us something that the rest of us might not have: that freshness, that speed, that quickness. He's also very athletic, a good defender and he's hitting shots when he is open. He's been a pleasant surprise. He's a kid who has hunger, energy and confidence.
Boban Marjanovic is another pleasant surprise. We knew he was good -- he was one of the best players in the Euroleague last season -- but we weren't sure if his size would allow him to run with us and find some minutes. So far, every time he's had a chance, he's done well. He gives us more depth and a different look, because we don't have a classic center, so he provides something we were lacking. Even Kyle Anderson, whose game I love, has helped us a lot. He's very versatile, a 6'9" guy who can handle the ball and is a good passer. He didn't get much run in the past few games because of that long rotation that allows us to have so many options at our disposal. We are a balanced team that has a little bit of everything.
There's also something special going on when it comes to the chemistry between Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and me. It's just amazing. We are all comfortable in our roles and it's crazy how well we get along off the court. It's a joy for me to spend time with them. Building that trust is important because it helps us be content with the responsibilities we have on the team. Some might say it's a secondary role but we don't see it that way. It might not be a featured role because none of us play over half the game. I play 22 minutes, Boris plays 23 and Patty gets 18 or 19. But we are happy to do what we do.
We take pride in being the second unit that comes in to change the game. It's a good situation for us and it helps that morale is high in general. That's not a minor thing, because if the starters get mad because the bench is playing well and they don't get to check back in or the bench guys want the job of the guys in the starting unit, things can get awkward. But here in San Antonio that doesn't happen, which is a great thing.
In the past few weeks I've had some plays in which I ended up on the floor and, while they ended well, every time I do that I end up regretting it. After that my hip aches, my knees too, I get scrapes and floor burns and I don't recover as quickly as I did when I was 22 or 23 years old. But since I know that I will only play 20 or 22 minutes and I feel like I have the energy to do that and enjoy it, I play with intensity. We all bust our backs to do things as effectively as possible. We do it because we love to, not because it's our job and that why I don't mind the bruises, even if they hurt more than in the past.
I'm enjoying the way the team is playing and I don't get as mad when things don't go my way. But I have to admit that the adrenaline of the games and the season is making my instincts kick in. So it's a struggle to be as calm as I was in the first month. That said, if I compare how I am now to how I was eight years ago I realize that the difference is huge. It's just that after so many years of being that way, it's inevitable for me to go back to that whirlwind of emotion. That's why I have to work on the mental aspect to be who I want to be and enjoy these last seasons.
We know everyone is looking forward to the game against the Warriors and think it could serve as a measuring stick for us. All that talk doesn't get to me at all. I don't think that matchup has a lot of meaning, because we don't know who will play and who won't. No one knows how either team will deal with the schedule leading up to it. So they could win by 30 or we could win by 30 and it wouldn't change anything. Anything can happen because this is the NBA.
What happens in that game won't determine anything and won't have any long term impact. So I think the fans and the media are looking forward to it more than we are. We are 40 games into the season and they've only lost twice. That's amazing! We won't change anything by beating them. We could take the three-game series and they will still finish with the best record if they keep playing like this. I actually admire how they play. It's fun to watch. When the time comes, we'll try to figure out how to stop them. Right now we just have to keep improving and developing our game. I'm really not concerned about that game at all. Maybe some of my teammates or Pop are, but I doubt it.
We have a rough couple of days ahead because [after we] face Brooklyn and then we have a back-to-back with Detroit, which is really tough at home. Then we'll host Cleveland. So that's an interesting three-game stretch in which we'll face the best team in the East, by far. So [it will be] a pretty intense week.