DAVID FLORES: Despite drop-off, Ginobili remains an asset to Spurs

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who became an unrestricted free agent July 1, told us via Twitter on Wednesday morning what we've known all along. He's continuing his pro career with the only NBA team he's played for.
Ginobili, who turns 36 on July28,broached the subject of retirement during the Finals. But there was no way he was going to walk away from the game he loves after the kind of season he had.
So, it came down to re-signing with the Spurs or taking his game elsewhere.
Really, now, can you imagine Ginobili, one of the most beloved and dynamic players in Spurs history, suiting up for another team?
That just wouldn't be weird. It would be sad, considering how much he's meant to the Silver & Black since his rookie season in 2002-03.
Point guard Tony Parker is the Spurs' engine and Tim Duncan is, well, a rock in high-top shoes, but Manu Ginobili is the heart and soul of the team. Even when he struggles, Ginobili inspires his teammates with his passion and competitiveness.
Although he was roundly criticized for his erratic play in the Finals, Ginobili remains a favorite of Spurs fans.
Ginobili, an icon in his native Argentina, has won three NBA championships with the Spurs and came within 28 seconds of winning a fourth last month.
Ginobili tweeted that he's going to remain with the Spurs for two more seasons. His return ensures that he, Duncan and Parker, a.k.a. the Big Three, will play together for at least one more season.

Ginobili's game dropped off this season

If all three stay healthy, there's no reason to believe the Spurs can't remain among the league's elite teams and make another run at the title next year.
After all, the Spurs took the defending champion Miami Heat to seven games in the Finals this season and should have ended the classic series in six games.
Leading the series 3-2, the Spurs were ahead by five points with 28 seconds left in Game 6 before they blew it. The Heat won the game in overtime to extend the series, and took the crown two nights later.
Duncan turned 37 in April and Ginobili showed signs this past season of finally wearing down, but their competitive ferocity is as strong now as it was when they were in their primes.
Ginobili struggled mightily at times this season, and his stat line reflected his game's big drop-off. He had career-lows in scoring (11.8 points) and shooting percentages, converting 42.5 percent attempts overall and 35.3 percent from the 3-point line.
Ginobili also had a tough time protecting the ball, averaging 2.2 turnovers. He had a total of 12 turnovers in the last two games of the Finals, including a career-high eight in Game 6. Ginobili had four turnovers in Game 7, all in the fourth quarter.
But Ginobili also had his bright moments in the Finals, highlighted by his 24-point, 10-assist performance in the Spurs' 114-104 win in Game 5.
Ginobili haswon Olympic gold medal, NBA, Euroleague titles
Ginobili needed to play well again for the Spurs to have a chance to close out the series in Game 6 but he didn't. He finished with one more point (nine) than turnovers, and missed a critical free throw that could have clinched the victory.
All that will stick in Ginobili's craw throughout the long offseason. But after healing physically and recharging emotionally and mentally, Ginobili should come roaring back next season. That is, if he can stay healthy. That's the big key here.
Ginobili has averaged 14.9 points. 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 turnovers in 11 seasons with the Spurs, who picked him with the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft. He was a star in Europe before signing with the Spurs at age 25.
Ginobili and Bill Bradley are the only two players to win an Olympic gold medal, an NBA championship and a Euroleague championship.
Ginobili's tweet comes one day after the Spurs and center Tiago Splitter, a restricted free agent, agreed to a four-year, $36 million deal.
Free agents can't sign new contracts until July 10.
Spurs fans are lukewarm on Splitter, but the big fella has a lot of upside. He's improved steadily in three seasons with the Silver & Black, and does some good things that aren't always reflected in his stat line.
Splitter sets good picks, is adept as a roller on the pick-and-roll play and is a solid defender. All he needs to get better is more playing time, and the Spurs have shown they plan to give him all the PT he can handle.


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