After the San Antonio Spurs were ousted in six games to the Memphis Grizzlies, ESPN’s “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons wrote a column titled NBA playoffs are ‘Wired’: Part One. The piece is a two-part mega column that was written before round two of the playoffs began. Simmons was using quotes from his favorite show, The Wire, to digest and analyze what happened in round one of the 2011 NBA playoffs.
Simmons gave his thoughts on the team, Tim Duncan’s current stage of his career, and then he ended with words about Manu Ginobili, that will make every Spurs fan proud to have the Argentinian on the team.
Simmons on the Spurs’ first round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies:
To the Spurs, only the fourth No. 1 seed ever to get bounced in Round 1 … although we can’t totally call it an upset because, within a half of Game 1, everyone went from thinking, “Memphis could beat San Antonio” to “Wow, Memphis is going to beat San Antonio UNLESS they choke away a couple of wins because of free throw shooting and/or repeated brainfarting.” You can’t blame the Spurs for staying loyal to their best three guys until the bitter end, but they also proved why Danny Ainge swung for the fences with the Perkins-Green trade: he felt like the 2008 nucleus had gone as far as it could go, and he didn’t want a come-hither moment along the lines of Randolph and Gasol ripping his team to shreds, followed by everyone saying, “It’s Danny’s fault, he should have done something.”
Here’s the reality: The Spurs were always Tim Duncan’s team. Once he stopped being the best player in every playoff series, they stopped winning titles. Leading us to …
Simmons on Tim Duncan:
To Duncan for getting buried and embalmed by Randolph. It’s over. Although in this case, there is a special dead — Duncan goes down as the best power forward ever, even if there’s a pretty strong, “No, actually, Karl Malone was the best power forward ever as long as you don’t count things like ‘titles’ and ‘abject fear in crunch time'” sabermetric case to be made by somebody that I’m sure will leave my knuckles bloody. By the way, the odds of Randolph officially ending Duncan’s prime had to be as high as an 11-year-old being the one who killed Omar.
Simmons on Manu Ginobili:
For the single greatest play of Round 1: Manu Ginobili’s incredible 3-that-was-eventually-ruled-a-2 near the end of Game 5 against Memphis. Let’s at least agree that this was (A) the most important replay review in league history, (B) one of the unluckiest defensive sequences you could ever have, and (C) one of the randomly greatest pressure shots in league history given the stakes. A quick running diary …
09.4 secs left — McDyess throws a terrible inbounds pass to Ginobili that Trick or Treat Tony Allen picks off but somehow doesn’t catch. The ball ricochets to McDyess, who decides it’s a good idea to take a 20-foot running hook with Marc Gasol standing right in front of him.
06.9— Gasol blocks the shot right to Trick or Treat Tony, who somehow can’t catch the ball a second time even though it skins his head and hits both of his hands.
05.9— Ginobili ends up with the ball right in front of San Antonio’s bench. He starts to dribble to the top of the key and quickly realizes that both Allen and Zach Randolph are blocking him. He whirls to dribble toward the right corner.
0:53 — Click on this clipand go to the nine-second mark of it, then pause the clip with 0.53 seconds on the clock. You’ll see Manu with his back to the basket and THREE Grizzlies closing in on him: Gasol closest to the baseline, then Allen, then Randolph. Odds of Ginobili scoring at this specific point: five kajillion to one.
0:47— Manu whirls toward the corner and decides (I’m translating from Spanish), “I’m going to get to the corner, plant my feet, and shoot a 3-pointer falling out of bounds with a 7-footer closing in on me, and this is definitely going to work.”
0:38— Manu pulls off everything from the previous paragraph. Gasol misses blocking it by a fraction of a fingernail. Referee Bob Delaney is so stunned by the sequence that, with the ball in the air, he signals a “3” with his left hand and a “2” with his right hand. By the way, this wasn’t even one of his five worst calls of the game. Somewhere in Scumville, Tim Donaghy nods happily.
0:22— The ball swishes through the hoop with Manu standing three feet out of bounds. Good God.
As you know, his left foot ended up being on the line, preventing it from going down as one of the greatest random saving-our-asses shot ever. If you’re looking at the larger picture here, Ginobili will make the Hall of Fame someday because of his three rings and his 2004 gold medal, and what he meant internationally, and for all the other reasons anyone would mention in this paragraph. Still, for someone staring at his basketball-reference.com page in sixty years, there’s just no way to translate his supernatural ability to roll with any situation on a basketball court. His soccer DNA gives him a freelancing ability that nobody else quite has, and really, that ridiculous 3-turned-2 was more of a soccer play than anything. He wasn’t the best 2-guard of his generation or anything, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see 10 more Dwyane Wades before we see another Ginobili.
So Spurs fans, when the 2011-2012 season eventually starts, barring a lockout, make sure to take in every Manu moment, he’s a rare breed of athlete that we may never see again.
(Photos: ESPN.com, Getty Images)