SAN ANTONIO - Legendary sixth-man Manu Ginobili is reportedly working with the San Antonio Spurs to "finalize details of his imminent return" for the upcoming season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Wojnarowski cited league sources when he tweeted Tuesday morning that Ginobili, who turns 40 on July 28, is expected to return for his 16th NBA season.
Manu Ginobili and the Spurs are finalizing details of his imminent return for a 16th NBA season, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2017
This comes after Argentinean soccer legend Diego Maradona also recently said his fellow countryman Ginobili was expected to return to the Spurs.
Ginobili considered retiring last summer, but returned to help lead the Spurs to a 61-21 season and a spot in the Western Conference Finals. He will remain the NBA's second-oldest active player behind Vince Carter, who signed with Sacramento last week after playing with Memphis the past three seasons.
The Silver and Black recorded back-to-back 60-win seasons for the first time in franchise history, no small feat considering the 2016-17 campaign was their first in 20 years without iconic power forward Tim Duncan, who retired last July.
Ginobili has won four NBA championships with the Silver and Black since he joined the team as a 25-year-old rookie in 2002. The Spurs capped Ginobili’s rookie season (2002-03) with their second league title.
San Antonio selected Ginobili late in the second round of the 1999 NBA draft with the 57th overall pick, but he didn’t join the team until three years later. Ginobili began his pro career at 18 and played seven seasons in Argentina and Italy before joining the Silver and Black.
His long, storied career the stuff of legends, Ginobili is a lock for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is one of only two players who have won an NBA title, an Olympic gold medal and a Euroleague championship. The other is former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley.
Ginobili has averaged 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 25.8 minutes during a career that has spanned 992 games. He has played in five NBA Finals with San Antonio.
“I think everyone that plays this game, that follows this game, that understands this game, respects a player like Manu on every level,” veteran Spurs center Pau Gasol said after Golden State’s series-clinching victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals in May. “Manu has been a fantastic, magnificent player all his career. He’s made a huge contribution on many levels in this league and internationally.”
Although Ginobili averaged career lows in points (7.5) and minutes (18.7) last season, he still was the leader of a bench that helped the Spurs finish with the league’s second-best record. Playing in 69 games, he also averaged 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals.
Ginobili’s impact on the success of the Spurs, who have made the playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons, has transcended stats. A fearless playmaker who has continued to befuddle defenders in the twilight of his career, Ginobili still can affect a game with a timely pass, steal or 3-pointer.
“I don’t want him to ever retire,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said late last season. “I want to squeeze every last ounce of juice I can. I’m going to use him like a bar of soap until there’s nothing left for his family or anybody else in the world.”
After the Warriors eliminated the Spurs on May 22, Ginobili said he hadn’t decided whether he would retire or return for his 16th season.
“I always said that I wanted to let it sink in for three weeks, four weeks, whatever, and then I will sit with my wife and see how it feels,” said Ginobili, who became a free agent on July 1. “Whatever I decide to do, I’ll be a happy camper.”
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