This translation was begun by KL -- and polished up by Jesus Gomez -- from Manu's latest column at La Nación, an argentinian newspaper. [Editor's Note - jrw.]
I'm fine, happy. I'm glad I had the chance to live an experience like this one, especially at this age, because it adds emotion to it. When you are 23 or 24 years old you don't take things the same way and you can't see meaning beyond the result. But experiencing the Olympics again when I thought it wouldn't happen -- it's special. It was definitely an emotional day.
Actually, the whole day wasn't like that, it's not like I spent all the time thinking about it being my last game with the National team. There were moments when it was on my mind, but it really hit me when I was walking off the court. My teammates started to hug me, people were applauding, and then I understood it. All that affection and respect hit me really hard and I couldn't keep my emotions in check anymore. In truth, it was really touching.
What's more, there were gestures from teammates and opponents that surprised me. Because when someone talks in front of a microphone it's like they are forced to say nice things about you. But when those things happen outside of the common channels, and they show you their respect or their esteem for what you have done -- feeling so much affection shocked me. Especially when it comes from players that I respect or that have had great careers. It's like it all hit me again.
And what the crowd did was touching. Beyond my particular situation, they were amazing, in general, during all the tournament. A constant party. They gave us a push during the good times and the bad ones, like the last two games. It was wonderful that it all happened in that context. So I'm very grateful for all that energy they sent our way during all those games.
I do hear what people say about the mark we left as a team and what I was able to do. It's not something that I've wrapped my head around just yet. Little by little, you can see it in different situations. But I'm not the one who should judge or say how the team resonated with the people. No doubt about it, knowing it has makes us feel good. Now, because of my retirement, they are telling me more often, and it's a nice feeling. There are moments when I feel uncomfortable with all the praise, but there are also other times when I feel good hearing it. I'm going back with my heart full with all that affection, which was quite welcome.
You can win the whole thing or some medal, but there are things that are more significant. And I think those of us who were part of that cycle can be proud of being respected and loved. And I feel, that, besides winning, we tried to represent the 40.000.000 that were at home, or the 10 or 20 million that care about the Olympics, the right way. That's what I value.
About my performance, I'm satisfied too. I exceeded my own physical expectations. I had some doubts, especially when I got to Las Vegas, because I didn't know how or when my calf would heal. I hadn't trained like I wanted to, but then I started to get in rhythm. I didn't think I was going to be in condition to play as many minutes or contribute that much, so I'm happy about it.
Could I have played a bit better? Of course, you can always play better. Could I have helped the team more? Surely. But I believe that in general I did my part, and that, from time to time, the team played pretty well. Maybe not at an outstanding level, but we competed with all we had against every opponent. We went blow for blow against everyone, except for Spain and the USA. Nowadays those two team are, without a question, one step above us, if not more than one, which made it impossible for us to compete against them. I think we had a respectable tournament performance-wise, exceeding the expectations we had when we first got together.
From now on the responsibilities on the team will change, since, for example, a guy like Chapu (Nocioni) decided not to play anymore. Fortunately, especially for the young guys, there are two cornerstones in which to lean on during this entire process, Luifa (Scola) and Carlos (Delfino), who will apparently continue to play. And it's good that it will happen like that. We have actually seen how the team can perform without me. Maybe not without Chapu, because there was no logical way to know it while he was active. But this is their time to flourish.
In this tournament we saw there are two key characters ready for more responsibility, Facu (Campazzo) and Nico Laprovittola, but there is also Pato Garino, who is hungry and anxious for more time on the court. Maybe the fact that Chapu and I were on the team meant he didn't get the role he deserved, or which would have allow him to shine more.
But it's a natural process of rebuilding. And, without a doubt, with each tournament they will grow, gain confidence and feel more like it's their team. Not just as a supporting cast, but as protagonists. That's why I feel that it was useful for them to play a tournament as important as this one. What's more, I understand that the young guys are ready, after a preparation like the one we did and after an Olympic tournament like this one. It's a very important step.
The good thing about this last stint with the National team is that the NBA starts much later than the European and Argentinian tournaments. That gives me some time to process these emotions. Preseason doesn't start until September 25th, so I'll have some time to change the mindset, clear my head, make up for some of the time I spent away from my family, take my kids to school and enjoy a mini vacation.
All that will facilitate the transition towards a new NBA season. There will be some rest and rehabilitation, because I have some bruises I want to get rid of before working with the team. But I knew what I was exposing myself to and I did it with pleasure. The fact that it will possibly be my last ride also makes it easy for me not to think about the long term, but about the day-to-day, like I've been doing lately. So I think it's not going to be hard to muster the energy and excitement for what will might be, as it was with the National team, my last experience in the NBA.