Manu Ginobili is one of the best shooting guards in the league—arguably fourth best behind Kobe, Wade, and Joe Johnson—and he'd probably be even higher if he could stay healthy.
That's the problem. He can't.
Ever since an injury in his rookie season, Ginobili has battled various ailments, causing his elite status to be hindered by health issues.
He has been sidelined with long-term injuries for multiple seasons, including his 2005-06 season and his 2008-09 season (in which he missed the playoffs entirely).
He also suffered an injury before last years playoffs, missing game 1, and finishing the series playing with a broken arm.
A broken hand earlier this season kept him sidelined for over a month.
If the Spurs had experienced extreme problems that month, the situation would be entirely different, but that wasn't the case. The rest of the team stepped up in Ginobili's absence, especially a fresh-legged Gary Neal.
The replacement guard played well, scoring 18 against Philly and 19 against Dallas.
Remarkably he put up these impressive statistics while averaging less than 30 minutes a game.
He also was impressive in Ginobili's first game back, with Neal playing 23 minutes compared to Ginobili's 17. He put up 18 points in the contest as well, ten more than Ginobili.
Neal has shown potential and can easily develop into one of the team's go-to-guys in the future. It would be wise to let him continue to start.
The sixth-man spot is no stranger to Ginobili who won the Sixth-Man award in 2008. He would also provide a strong scoring option off the bench.
The time has come when Ginobili must pass the torch on to his younger counterpart, for the good of the team and his own health.
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