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The Hoop Doctors

Will Manu Ginobili’s Return Disrupt the Spurs Chemistry?

February 8, 2012 – Dan Favale

Manu Ginobili has been watching from the sidelines for the past 21 games, but is reportedly set to return to action as early as next week.

Per Jeff McDonald of the Express-News:

“The doctors say he’s healed and healthy,” Popovich said before the Spurs’ 89-84 win over the Grizzlies. “It’s just a matter of conditioning and timing, rhythm and confidence, all those things right now.”

“I’d expect him in the next week or so.”

Ginobili’s imminent return should come as great news, but the question as to the potential impact he will have for San Antonio must be posed. The shooting guard was on an absolute tear before he went down with a broken hand, but the Spurs have recently gone on an absolute tear of their own, without him.

Just like when Rudy Gay went down for the Memphis Grizzlies last season, the rest of the San Antonio team stepped up in Ginobili’s absence. Tony Parker has been sensational, Tim Duncan still has gas left in the tank and Richard Jefferson has been surprisingly not-horrible.

Currently, the Spurs hold the third seed in the Western Conference, a position few expected them to be in prior to Ginobili’s injury. Now that he is close to returning, the team should be prepared to make an even more impressive postseason run. Unless his absence is truly similar to that of Gay’s last year.

While Gay has excelled since returning to the Grizzlies’ rotation, the team itself has not. Zach Randolph’s injury is a definite factor, but you cannot help but notice Memphis lacks the complete selflessness it did without a bona fide superstar.

As far as heralded athletes go, Gay is far from selfish, but without him, there was no focal point, but rather offense was run as a balanced collective. And we all know where that got the Grizzlies.

The same can arguably be said of the Spurs. San Antonio was milking Ginobili’s shooting abilities before he went down. He was Parker’s first, and second, option to pass off to. Now that Parker does not have that luxury, he has been forced to think outside the box, getting himself, Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter more involved. And its working.

Like it or not, Ginobili’s presence will significantly alter the Spurs’ current game plan. While the offensive free-for-all has gotten them this far, Popovich and company won’t hesitate for a moment to go back to feeding Ginobili.

And you know what? San Antonio shouldn’t take any other approach.

Even after what we have seen from Gay and the Grizzlies, it must be understood that while Ginobili’s situation in San Antonio is similar, it is also much different. The Spurs are an experienced group, whose core has been together for nearly a decade, and familiarity makes all the difference.

Memphis isn’t exactly new to each other, but a majority of their core, including Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, boast an air of uncertainty. San Antonio knows for sure what it has, and it knows how to use it.

Ginobili will take shots away from other players, yet he will create open looks for them at the same time. Don’t believe for a minute that he is going to force the action. He’ll take over when he has to, but he won’t hesitate to hit the open man in the event of a double-team.

What’s to make of all this?

That the Spurs are are currently a dangerous team who is about to become even more lethal; Ginobili’s presence will most certainly disrupt the chemistry San Antonio has established, but in the best way one possibly can.

Dan Favale is an avid basketball analyst and firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His work can be found at in addition to Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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