It's that time of year again, folks, where the talented people over at Sports Illustrated compile their list of the Top 100 NBA players. Offseason blues are in full swing now that the Rio 2016 Olympics have long since ended, and this list is just what the Dr. Naismith ordered to keep us going until the preseason.
Making his return to the list at 97 after being excluded from last year's is none other than our beloved Manu. This summer, much like the last, left the Spurs faithful worried that we had seen Ginobili's storied time in San Antonio come to an end. Alas, the only retirement forthcoming from Manu in 2016 was his scheduled retirement from the Argentinian Men's National Team. Manu signed a 1-year, $14 million deal in July and is entering what could be (for real this time, you guys) the final season of his Hall of Fame career. Fresh off a campaign in which he averaged the fewest points, assists, rebounds, and minutes since his rookie year, Manu's value on the court is still being recognized by those who aren't loyal citizens of Spurs Nation, perhaps due in part to his outstanding showing in the Olympics.
Here's SI's Rob Mahoney's excerpt on Ginobili:
Even at 39, Ginobili is the kind of playmaker around whom all seem to flourish. Small, scoring guards are allowed to follow their bliss. Spot shooters find the ball in their hands off of wild, whip passes and quick swings alike. The misdirection running throughout Ginobili's game makes him all the more effective in setting up rolling bigs a beat earlier or later than the defense might expect. You live with the reckless streaks and the porous defense because he brings a dimension to the game that no other role player can. The step Manu lost along the way changed his game but couldn't derail it. Still he found the angles to average 17.6 points (on strong shooting percentages), 5.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per 36 minutes in his 14th season with the Spurs.
Mahoney eloquently sums up the voodoo that Manu does so well, while candidly highlighting the deficiencies that have left many Spurs fans pulling their hair out, leaving them sporting bald spots of their own. Ginobili can still be a dynamic playmaker in spurts for the Silver and Black's second unit, and his leadership on and off the court will be invaluable for a Spurs team facing their first season of the post-Duncan era. The days of relying on Ginobili to carry the bench or hit every clutch shot are now a distant memory. All the Spurs need from Manu this year is what they got from Timmy last year: whatever he has left. And for a player like Manu who has given his team, his fans, and his city everything he's got since Day 1, whatever he has left will be more than enough.