What follows is a translation from Manu Ginobili's column, which was posted in its original form on April 29 by Argentine newspaper La Nación.
I only learned that it existed thanks to the very good translation posted by KL_Indubitably_Good in the fanpost section. So a huge thanks to KL_I_G. Just consider this one to be a different version.
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We were "lucky" to play against a team that was hurting, like Memphis. They were missing three of their best players and suffered from that lack of resources and scoring talent. It's normal, because the foundation of a team is the skill level of its players and Memphis just didn't have the weapons to win. They were comfortably in the lead in the fight for the fifth seed but due to injuries to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, they lost a lot late in the season and had to face us.
Things will be different now. We are facing a healthy Oklahoma City team fresh off a 4-1 win over the Mavericks. They have two scary players who can score in bunches, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, as well as role players that know what the team needs of them and what to do on the court. They are athletic and physical, so in that sense they are similar to Memphis on defense, but they have a lot more offensive talent.
We know how good Durant and Westbrook are, so we'll have to make them uncomfortable out there and make sure we make the right defensive adjustments, because they combine for 50 points. It's no secret they are the key to the series. Sure, Durant scores more but Westbrook adds 11 assists and eight rebounds a game and plays with unmatched passion and energy. Together they are a constant threat, because they have both the ability to finish inside in a numbers of ways and hit from outside, way outside. They are two top-10 NBA players.
That's why our team defense will have to be at its best to keep them under control. You just can't guard them one-on-one, so we'll have to do it as a group. The Thunder are also really dangerous on the offensive glass, with Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter always crashing the boards, making their presence felt inside. In the last matchup in San Antonio they gave us a lot of trouble in that area, simply because they are just very good at it. That's one thing I believe we should keep in mind.
We'll see what type of defense they use and we'll adjust our offense to counter it. If they guard LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard one-on-one, our focus and energy will be geared towards getting them the ball. They are our best two players and the rest of us are there to help them get us the best possible performances. They are our two offensive hubs and we know that's how this team runs. If the Thunder double them or send help, however, then we'll need both of them to trust us to do our thing. It will all depend on what strategy our opponent uses.
There were some big developments in the Western conference playoffs, but on the other side of the bracket. Injuries to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry have a considerable impact, but not to us. We are facing a healthy Thunder team. Even if I were to imagine a potential conference finals series against the Warriors, Stephen Curry would be available, so all the pieces would be in place. We still have too much work to do against Oklahoma to start thinking about that, though.
Asides from all that's going on in the playoffs, I have to express the joy I feel about Luis Scola's designation as the flag bearer for our delegation in the Rio Olympics. I learned about it late on Wednesday and, while I knew he was one of the favorites, I still got so happy. You always want someone you hold in high regard to go through such an emotional and intense experience as carrying the national flag in such a big stage.
It's hard for an athlete to express an opinion as to who is is worthy of the honor because it's hard to compare individual and team sports. It's not easy to contrast team victories with individual achievements, to measure careers by medals. There are so many differences between sports, so it's hard to figure out who should be the flag bearer. Now that I know the decision, I'm happy for him and basketball in Argentina. But it could have been someone else and I'm sure they still would have been worthy. I'm obviously really happy Luis got the honor, in no small part because I've known him for 20 years.
It's really an intense thing, what he'll get to do, because you really don't know what to expect. You just know that you are the face of a country for a a little while and hundreds of millions are watching. It's a caress to the ego and the soul to represent a nation in such a big event. You feel a mixture of happiness and anxiety over doing something wrong just when the camera is on you. But I'm sure Luis will have a great time. And being in that position will mean getting the recognition from his peers. He deserves it.