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Manu Ginobili: “I still feel like I have a big role”

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In his latest column, Ginobili looks forward to another NBA season.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What follows is a translation of Manu Ginobili's column for Argentine newspaper La Nacion, which originally ran on Oct. 25.

I'm happy to be once again in this situation, starting an NBA season. I'm really enjoying it and trying to stay in the best shape possible. I'm taking care of myself, trying to stay healthy so I can help the team.

It's an emotional start of season because the addition of Nico (Laprovittola) makes it more unique. I had not shared a team with a countryman since Fabri (Oberto) left in 2009. There's also a 13-year age difference between Nico and me, so I'm going to have a different role in our relationship than the one I had with Fabri.

I'm really happy he made the team but I'm also a little sad about Pato (Garino), who was really close and worked hard, but couldn't make it this time. He's younger — fresh out of college — so he's surely going to have other opportunities. But being here, busting his ass for seven weeks — you hope the dream will come true. It didn't happen for him, but at least it happened for Nico. Things ended On a bittersweet note, but I trust that in time, Pato will find his way to the NBA.

As for us, we are going to have to adapt to some small changes, especially when it comes to the big men. It's obvious. LaMarcus (Aldridge) remains here, but he's almost new, too. We have to find those bonds, those partnerships that form between guards and bigs when they get used to playing with one another. But we generally kept our core.

We have to integrate Pau (Gasol) into the system as soon as possible. We want him to feel comfortable, involved. In the second unit, we will have to do the same and figure out how to play together with whoever plays the most out of (Dewayne) Dedmon, (David) Lee and (Davis) Bertans. We have to take it slow, take our time with that. The rest is going to be fine.

It's going to be an hard season, just like all others, but we want to win. The other teams have added new pieces and will have the same goal as ours. Golden State and Cleveland are getting most of the attention, and rightly so. One is the last champion and the other broke the regular season wins record and added Kevin Durant. As always, we still have a shot, though. We are going to have to work hard, because nothing will come easy. But we have to build ourselves up slowly and get to June, July, May at the top of our game.

We are all waiting to see what happens with the balance between the two conferences, although it doesn't seem like things will be much different than last season. Since the Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Kobe and Shaq Lakers no one had assembled a team with as many stars as the Warriors. They were the center of attention last season and now have added Durant, so it's understandable that the spotlight is on them. But the rest of the teams are nothing to sneeze at.

The Clippers are always incredible tough. We are going to be tough, too. We have to see what happens to Chicago now, with all the changes they made. Boston is going to be good in the East. Out West, we're just going to have to wait and see how Dallas and Houston do after all that shuffling. Oklahoma City is going to have a hard time replacing Durant. I think in the East, Cleveland, Boston and Chicago are going to get most of the attention. The East is a little more volatile. We'll just have to see what happens in the West.

This year is also going to be special because there is yet another new Argentinean player in the NBA. We really didn't see this coming five months ago. By the end of last season, we didn't think it was likely for anyone else to make the jump. Not because of a lack of talent, but because there hadn't been a lot of talk about anyone from Argentina arriving in the league.

It's not common for a player to go straight from the National League to the NBA. We all believed that Nico Brussino had a future in the NBA, but we all thought he was going to have another professional experience in Europe before making that leap. Even he was surprised about how things turned out. He always says that when he talks about it. He ended up earning a spot here, and it's really great that there are two new guys from Argentina with whom to share our experience. That's two more cities in which you know someone. It's great. Hopefully they will keep coming, with Pato soon and Facundo Campazzo next year, or whenever.

There was a lot of talk about this upcoming season and how the new television deal could affect the franchises, which adds some extra flavor to the proceedings. We'll see where everyone stands after 15 games. Obviously Kevin Durant's decision made a contender even stronger and lowered the expectations for another. The shift there is evident. As for the rest, in terms of conferences, it doesn't seem like much has changed. Al Horford went from Atlanta to Boston, which now has more star power. Atlanta might have gotten worse, but they got Dwight Howard. Cleveland is still as good as it was. We'll see if the balance is altered or if things remain as they were.

As for me, I'm really at ease with what's coming, because I feel like I can still contribute. The team needs what I can give it, even if I can't provide as much of it or as often anymore. I still feel like I have a big role. I don't feel like I'm just a coach or a mentor. I can help the team. That keeps me alert, active and young, at least figuratively. I can't just give up because I'm the third oldest player in the league. Mentally, I'm calmer, but on a day-to-day basis I still want to produce, help out, earn my minutes on the court, like I always did.

That keeps me aiming high and with my guard up.