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Old 06-01-2008, 06:02 PM   #1
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Default Spurs players head to summer 'vacation'

Web Posted: 05/31/2008 09:47 PM CDT

By Jeff McDonald

Freshly shaven and wearing a ball cap pulled low over his eyes, Manu Ginobili could have passed for 21 years old when he showed up at Spurs headquarters Saturday afternoon.

Coming off a Western Conference finals series in which he often looked about 51, this was a good sign for the Spurs' guard.

An even better sign will be if he emerges from the offseason looking no older than 31, which will be his birth-certificate age when the team reconvenes for training camp in October.

After limping to the season's finish line on a jammed ankle that severely limited his production in the playoffs, Ginobili is set to help Argentina defend its gold medal in this summer's Beijing Olympics.

“It's going to be a month and a half of really stressing workouts and competition,” Ginobili said Saturday after clearing out his locker for the summer. “The mental part is almost as difficult as the physical part.”

You can't blame the Spurs for worrying, at least a little bit, about the physical part.

Ginobili enjoyed the best season of his NBA career — averaging a career-high and team-leading 19.5 points per game and winning the league's Sixth Man of the Year award — in part because he took last summer off to fully rest his body.

An ill-timed ankle injury in the playoffs, however, robbed him of his lift and explosion. He averaged just 12.6 points against the Lakers in the conference finals, which ended with the Spurs' Game 5 loss Thursday.

Now, Ginobili is poised to endure the summertime stress test that is the Olympic Games, where he will compete alongside Spurs teammate Fabricio Oberto, a fellow Argentine.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would never begrudge Ginobili a chance to defend the gold he won in Athens, and he'd probably be hung in Argentine effigy if he tried. Still, Popovich admits Ginobili's health will be “a major concern” this summer.

“He's got to heal,” Popovich said. “We started that process today. He'll be off of his ankle for the next four to five weeks. Obviously, we couldn't have done that during the playoffs.”
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