Tom Sorensen

Short takes: On Manu Ginobili and the NBA’s second-best player (it’s not who you think)

The way the San Antonio Spurs said goodbye to guard Manu Ginobili (20) was just awesome.
The way the San Antonio Spurs said goodbye to guard Manu Ginobili (20) was just awesome. AP

Some of sports’ sweetest moments are when a team and a town come together. The Antonio Spurs and San Antonio came together Monday night.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich started Manu Ginobili against Golden State. Ginobili, who might have played the final game of his exceptional 15-year career, was summoned to the bench with 2:25 remaining.

The ovation was loud and warm and caring. Fans chanted Ginobili’s name the rest of the game, and after it. He wasn't merely an athlete. He was their athlete, their guy.

As Popovich said, Ginobeli is a Hall of Fame player who was willing not to start. Ginobili played with such style and savvy and grace, finding openings, making passes and giving the Spurs what they required when they required it.

Fans appreciated all that Ginobili offered.

Despite the season-ending loss to the Warriors, they proved it.

▪  If Lebron James is the best player in the NBA, then who is second? I nominate San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard.

Among the contenders for No. 3 are Durant, Curry and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook had a phenomenal season. The numbers he accumulated are without precedent.

But consider this. Golden State recruited Durant before the season, and one of the recruiters was Curry. He knew what the addition of Durant meant. It meant that he would share the court with a co-star. It meant Durant often would have prettier numbers than he did. It meant that he no longer would be the No. 1 player on the NBA’s best team. It meant he would be demoted to 1A.

The transition wasn’t entirely smooth. Time was required. Curry did what he was asked.

Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State. What if he had gone the other direction? What if Westbrook’s Thunder had recruited Durant? Would Westbrook have helped? He probably would have.

But would he have accepted being demoted from No. 1 to No. 1A? What do you think?

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter: