SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs guard Manu Ginobili stepped outside the team's locker room 15 minutes before tipoff of Wednesday's 97-81 win over the Detroit Pistons and declared that doctors have cleared him to return to action after his recovery from testicular surgery.
Ginobili, who has missed 11 games so far, couldn't provide a firm timetable for his return, but he expects to hit the court again sometime next week, saying, "I'm pretty sure that it will happen."
"Bottom line: very unfortunate situation [and] play," he said. "Got hurt badly, and nobody expected anything like that. I had to sit for a month. It was very painful. The first week was very tough. But after that, I started to get better.
"It was not much experience on this because it never happened before in the franchise. The doctor never had an athlete [suffer such an injury]. So we were just figuring it out. But a few days ago, he told me I was clear to do whatever I wanted to do as long as I don't feel pain or discomfort afterward. I'm progressing great. I practiced a little bit. I'm feeling good. I've been lifting, conditioning. I'm ready to play."
Ginobili participated in workouts with the team on Sunday and Monday. During the portion of the session open to the media, he didn't appear to be slowed by any lingering discomfort. Ginobili admitted that although he's been lifting, conditioning and practicing, his workout sessions haven't featured the same physicality he would experience in real games.
Most of the on-court work performed by Ginobili has been with the team's video staff, which "tried to push me around a little bit," he said.
The return of Ginobili should help fortify a Spurs team that clinched its 19th straight trip to the postseason on Wednesday.
Ginobili vowed that once he returns, he will play with the same reckless abandon that has cemented his reputation around the league for more than 14 seasons.
"I'm not hesitating, I'm not in doubt, I'm not afraid," he said.
Ginobili suffered the testicular injury with 2:26 left to play in a Feb. 3 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Spurs declared him out for at least a month after he underwent surgery. He suffered the injury when Ryan Anderson's right knee caught him squarely in the groin area just as he turned toward Anderson.
Ginobili collapsed to the floor and fell back down again multiple times as team trainers tried to assist him to the locker room.
"Usually when that happens, it hurts for a little bit. And then after three minutes, you're back at it," Ginobili said. "It was three minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half, and I was still in the same level of pain. So when we got to the clinic, once we did an MRI, [the doctors said], 'We need the surgery, and it's got to be right now.' When they told me it was going to take a month or a month and a half, unbelievable. It was a very unfortunate situation. It was a perfect storm for this type of thing."
Ginobili said he is pain free, but said he will wear a protective cup probably for the rest of the season. Ginobili also mentioned that initially after the injury he wasn't thinking about returning to the lineup.
"I thought if I don't play, I don't care. I just want to heal," he said. "I want to feel good. So the first week, coming back to play wasn't a priority. When you have a health problem, and I don't want to be dramatic, but I was struggling. I just wanted to get healthy, get well."
A 14-year veteran, Ginobili contemplated retirement before the start of the season. Before suffering the injury, he was putting together somewhat of a resurgent season. Ginobili is averaging 10 points, 3.3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game.
Despite Ginobili taking part Monday in San Antonio's workout at the team facility, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Ginobili won't participate in the club's back-to-back set against Detroit and New Orleans.
Point guard Tony Parker said he was shocked by how well Ginobili moved around during Monday's practice, just after the team returned from its eight-game rodeo road trip.
"When I got back, I was surprised," Parker said. "Everybody was saying like six weeks, maybe longer. Now it looks like he can be back like next week. I don't know what they're going to decide. With Pop, you never know. He likes to be on the safe side. So we'll see. But that's great news. He's looking good. He practiced with us today, and he was looking good."
Ginobili ranked this latest injury as "top-top" in terms of the worst he's experienced in the NBA, but he refused to call himself unlucky after a summer in which he pondered retirement only to return to endure such a freak injury.
"The truth is that for the first four months [of the season], I was having a blast," Ginobili said. "I was having a great time. So if I consider myself unlucky for a play like that, I would be a compete idiot. I'm a very lucky man. I've been here for 15 years, winning championships, doing what I like doing with great people. So I can take something like that, and I'll be fine."