Grandpa Juice

Kawhi is not an emotional leader. He is playing as well as in-his-prime Michael Jordan, but he doesn't have the contagious fire that Jordan possessed. Lamarcus is similar. He's not emotional. He's an elite talent, but he doesn't lead the troops into battle.

Tony Parker, in his prime, had it. When he became emotional, it trickled through the team. But now, he's a step slower and can't attack like he used to. He now relies on corner threes and mid-range jumpers. He's no longer relentlessly attacking the rim, and with that shift in his game, his emotional leadership dropped off. Tim Duncan earned the respect of everyone in the league with his consistent, high-level play. He wasn't a Michael Jordan-level leader, but the team followed when he took control. Obviously, he's no longer playing.

I think Jonathon Simmons has it, but he hasn't earned the minutes to make an emotional impact. David Lee has it, but he's too inconsistent and too flawed to be impactful consistently. Patty Mills can turn a game when he plays well. He gets fired up and the team reacts. But he tends to follow Manu's lead.

This all comes down to Grandpa Juice. We need Manu to ignite the team. He's the only player left that can truly lead this team through the playoffs. The Spurs began Game 5 rudderless. Memphis took an early 12-7 lead and in response, Popovich subbed in Manu. Manu's immediate three point play followed by a three pointer lifted the team. Following each of his buckets, Manu gave a vintage fist pump that evoked an emotional response from everyone in the building. When he's fired up, we're fired up.

Later, when he literally dove face-first into the hardwood chasing a loose ball, the crowd erupted in chants of, "MA-NU, MA-NU, MA-NU!!!" In 18 minutes, Manu recorded 10 points, two rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a block. He was electric, but more than that, he led and the team followed.

We need Manu in these playoffs. We do not need him to be superb in every game, but in those coin flip battles, he will more often than not be the difference between a win and a loss. He's an incredible player. I hope he plays forever.


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