Manu Ginobili: the under-the-radar 2010 prize?

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ginobili_game.jpgEveryone knows who the big targets this summer will be: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire (provided he opts out), Joe Johnson, and Rudy Gay, in roughly that order. Cap space has been cleared, articles have been written, baseball caps have been analyzed. 

I understand all of that completely. Here’s what I don’t get. Last weekend, Manu Ginobili put up a combined 75 points in wins against two of the best three teams in basketball. A week earlier, Ginobili scored a combined 58 points in wins against Cleveland and Boston. Manu’s missed one game in the past couple of months. That was the game the Spurs lost to the Nets. He’s got the 2nd-best PER among shooting guards this season, and the 9th-best PER of any player in the league. And it’s not like this is a fluke year for him — Manu’s had a PER mark of 22 or higher in his last six seasons. On top of all that, if you believe in the “proven winner” thing, Manu Ginobili is definitely a proven winner. 
Here’s the kicker. Manu Ginobili is a free agent in 2010, and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as much speculation surrounding him as there should be. He does want to be a Spur, and the Spurs will likely want him back very badly. That being said, there are a lot of teams with a lot of cap room out there, and not all of them are going to get their #1 target. 
Ginobili’s age makes him a less attractive free agent than the other big names who will be available, but he’s played 70 or more games in five of his eight NBA seasons, and last season was the first time Ginobili missed more than 20 games. What’s more, Ginobili has a package of skills that should age extremely well. Ginobili is an underrated athlete, but he relies more on change of direction and misdirection than explosiveness to get to the basket. He’s also a dead-eye shooter and very solid playmaker, two skills that guards retain as they get older. 
I’m of the opinion that it’s better to take a risk on a player who might get old before his contract expires than it is to pay a young player who hasn’t proven himself yet like a superstar. If a player gives you three effective years and gets old before his contract runs out, there are two benefits. First of all, the importance of getting a good season out of a veteran player who you know will make an impact can’t be overstated. As bad as Kevin Garnett’s contract looks now, do you really think the Celtics regret making that deal? At all? 
Besides, washed-up veterans have huge expiring contracts, which make them much easier to move. Teams will gladly give up talent for a contract that’s a year or two away from expiring, and contenders will often take well-compensated veterans who off the hands of the team that overpaid them — see Charlotte and Washington getting out from under the Stephen Jackson and Antawn Jamison contracts this season by trading them to contenders who needed a short-term boost. 
On the other hand, giving a long-term deal to a young player and counting on him to take his game to the next level while making huge money can prove disastrous. Ben Gordon has a player option worth 13.2 million dollars for the 2013/14 season. Andris Biedrins has the option to make 9 million dollars in the 2013/14 season. The Bulls owe Luol Deng 14.25 million dollars in 2013/14. It’s a bird in the hand/two birds in a bush thing. There are no hard-and-fast rules in free agency, but if you think you’re highly likely to get two or three good years from a veteran signed to a five-year deal, that’s better than giving a five-year deal to someone who might go out and underperform for all five seasons of the contract. 
Ginobili’s statistical resume is beyond reproach. He’s won on every level, both as a superstar in international play and as a complementary player on the Spurs. He doesn’t need to be the superstar, and was even willing to come off the bench in San Antonio. I don’t have a crystal ball, and anything could happen over the course of Manu’s next contract. I just get the feeling that Manu Ginobili is going to quietly make the team that signs him very happy while the rest of the league goes for broke chasing marquee names. 

Watch Bulls coach Jim Boylen get bowled over by Denver’s Torrey Craig

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Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen received a raise as part of the team deciding he deserved additional compensation after moving up from an assistant position.

Of course, what Boylen probably didn’t expect when he took the head job was to literally be in a more vulnerable position on the floor.

During Thursday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Boylen was it standing on the sidelines in front of his bench when an errant pass from Nikola Jokic sent Torrey Craig hurdling into Boylen.

Via Twitter:

Everyone appeared to be okay after the collision, but even still it feels like with the way things have gone for Boylen in Chicago, this could only happen to him.

Charles Barkley isn’t buying Kyrie Irving’s apology to LeBron James (VIDEO)

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Kyrie Irving made headlines on Wednesday night when he won the game for the Boston Celtics against the Toronto Raptors, then proceeded to call LeBron James to apologize about how he treated the Los Angeles Lakers star when the two were on the Cleveland Cavaliers together.

To many, the move seemed like a quick maturation of Irving as well as a surprising about face by the shifty point guard. Even LeBron thought that Irving calling him was out of character, saying as much to media on Wednesday.

However, some saw Irving’s comments and actions a little bit differently. Speaking on Inside the NBA on TNT on Thursday, Charles Barkley said that he felt Irving’s conversation with LeBron was actually a swipe at his current Celtics teammates.

Via Twitter:

To be fair, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst expressed a similar sentiment to Barkley’s on “The Jump” on Thursday, and I have to side with both of them. Their explanation of Irving’s comments make more sense than some kind of overnight maturation on the part of the Celtics star.

Irving is a very good player but he’s also a transparent marketer. His flat earth comments, his commercial that became a terrible movie … it’s all about his personal brand. Part of that is shifting blame away from himself as Boston — currently fifth in the East — continues to struggle.

I don’t think Irving is magically more mature. If anything, his apology is a self-serving attempt at comparing himself to LeBron and by association, the rest of the Celtics as the flotsam that has traditionally consisted the Cavaliers roster.

That’s really not a fair view of either side, and I don’t trust much of what comes out of Irving’s comments beyond their obvious marketing value.

Russell Westbrook hanging with his son Noah before the Lakers game was extremely cute (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook seems like a pretty intense guy. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has won an MVP not by being a pushover, but by pushing past opponents for triple doubles.

We have really rounded out Westbrook as a individual over the past couple of years, particularly after Kevin Durant decamped Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors. Part of that has been seeing Westbrook as a father, which we got more of on a Thursday before the Thunder took on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the game, Westbrook was seen on the floor hanging out with his son, Noah, and generally having a good time.

The result was, admittedly, extremely cute.

Via Twitter:

Noah Westbrook will be draft eligible in 2036. Set your calendars, I guess.

Michael Beasley tried to enter the game wearing his practice shorts (VIDEO)

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Michael Beasley has given us several hilarious moments over his career. The Los Angeles Lakers forward is known for being a bit of a draft bust as well as an enigmatic, often goofy NBA personality.

On Thursday as the Lakers got set to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Beasley was unable to check into the game thanks to a wardrobe malfunction on his part. Specifically, Beasley tried to enter the game while wearing his practice shorts.

Officials told him he couldn’t enter the game and Beasley quickly ran back to the locker room to change into the correct uniform.

Via Twitter:

LeBron James can’t return back to the Lakers soon enough.