Now Entering a Contract Year: Manu Ginobili

One of my favorite moments of "Kobe Doin' Work" is when the camera catches Manu Ginobili sitting on the San Antonio bench, injured, and Bryant says: "That's a bad boy, right there."

That's respect.

The Spurs' stellar guard, who turns 32 next month, has been beset by injuries, and is entering the final year of his contract. There have been reports that the team was miffed by his dedication to his Argentine national team, especially for the 2008 Olympics where he was injured in the semi-finals.

When healthy, stars of Ginobili's stature seldom change teams, but when Ginobili arrived in Argentina recently, he held a press conference, and based on his comments there, it's hard to make the case that he's feeling secure about his status with the Spurs' organization.

Andres Pando quotes Ginobili the Argentine sports daily Ole (translated by ESPNDeportes.com):

"In San Antonio they have not sat down with me to discuss an extension. I have a year to go on my current contract. I do not know what they want to do. I will wait and will continue to play. Contract talks were suspended after the Olympics," he notes.

The trip to Beijing had no lasting consequence on his relationship with the team: "I know the owner was not happy. But they did not mention a word to me. [Coach] Popovich understands my position. He said he would have done the same thing as I did. I do not think there is anything broken between us. I would prefer to stay in San Antonio for the rest of my career. But, if anything has to change, I will grab my bags and go elsewhere."

Julian Mozo, NBA reporter from Ole, quotes Ginobili on the potential for a trade:

"A year ago I thought this would be impossible and today I believe there is a chance, it could happen ... This year is very strategic, with teams clearing their payrolls so they can sign free agents in 2010 and perhaps some teams would rather trade you than lose you and remain empty-handed."
It will also be up to the Spurs if Manu can continue playing with them. "Change is inevitable on a team, but you do not have to change everything. I believe that if we are all healthy, we can contend," he analyzed. And he confirmed this when he described his ideal teammates: "I want those who know how to play by my side ... I would rather have them be experienced and have a high basketball IQ, even if they are a step slower."