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I am a proud, and often confused, parent of four. My second oldest has a very strong personality, and can be somewhat persistent when it comes to doing things her own way. One day after she was acting completely belligerent, being the brilliant parent that I am, I began lecturing her about respect, obedience, and anything else that came to mind. Somewhere in the middle of my rant I posed this question, “Do you want a spanking?!” In that moment while my daughter watched me morph into a fire breathing dragon, I watched as she became entangled in one of life’s most intriguing dilemmas. “Do I answer the question to my own doom and amusement, or do I simply keep my mouth shut?” Today, I find myself amidst a similar dilemma. Unfortunately, this past week’s events have led us all to consider something, that two years ago, never would have entered the deepest reaches of our minds. Maybe the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree, because just like my daughter did that afternoon, today I will answer the pending question and accept the fallout. “Should we consider trading Manu Ginobili?” While this topic may provide as much acceptance as fingernails on a chalk board, at the end of the day, we may be better off after getting it all out.

While Manu is one of San Antonio’s most beloved players, professional basketball is a business, and we must consider any options that give our team the best opportunity for long term success. This season Manu’s production has slipped to all time lows in field goal and three point percentage, rebounding, and steels. So, what teams would be interested in a declining star with durability issues? The first criteria, is a team in need of leadership. We have all seen Manu’s uncanny ability to enter a game and immediately change the entire outlook. Team members play with more confidence, defenders get nervous, and the fans get ready for something unexpected. He is one of the few players that opposing teams must respect in every area of the game. Second, a team that needs to unload salary. Ginobili’s expiring contract poses an interesting set of challenges to the Spurs brass next summer with the arrival of Jefferson’s $14 million payroll, Manu would need to take a significant pay cut to stay with the team. Conversely, this offers any other team a reliable veteran with almost no strings attached. Last, a team that is teetering on the edge of brilliance or a breakdown. Manu is the central cog that makes the clock work, and every team in the league can benefit from a player that can make the game go like he does. I agree that a Manu trade is highly unlikely, but I also believe if it does come to past, the Spurs have no desire to see him several times a year and early in the playoffs with a Western Conference team. With that said we must look east, where the top teams are amazing, but the standard slips steeply as average teams hope to stumble into the playoffs.

The Wizards hold the first spot on my countdown. Washington has shown signs of being a quality team, but can never seem to get everyone going at the same time. A handful of playoff tries and serious questions about Arenas’s long-term health have left the team unorganized and seeking a true leader. Manu offers the leadership, playmaking ability, and a more consistent player than the injury riddled Arenas. Washington has several players the Spurs could benefit from, the best of which is Caron Butler. Butler has recently come under scrutiny from team members and coaches for lack of production, which could motivate them to make a move if the right player is available. He offers San Antonio a young and athletic player. He is a solid defender and a slasher who is capable of getting to the rim and finishing with authority. Butler’s downside is his below average three point shooting, and he is not a very accomplished passer. Richard Jefferson’s skill set allows us to make some sacrifices in those areas.

The Charlotte Bobcats, much like Washington, have a lot of potential, but lack that one piece to make it all work. With the recent trade for Stephen Jackson, the roster is pretty full at the swing position. Jackson’s 2 year $7.5 million contract threatens their ability to build in the future. Manu offers a chance to unload a multi-year contract and provide that team leader Stephen Jackson will never be. The Bobcats have several players that could come over, but the most intriguing option is Boris Diaw. Tony and Diaw are friends and fellow Frenchies, it would be interesting to see if they could make that connection at game time. He offers a long-bodied defender who does pretty much everything on the court that we need. His 2 year $9 million contract would be eased by Manu’s expiring one year deal, giving the Bobcats more room in 2010.

The last team, and the one closest to the pinnacle is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls, in my opinion, are the most underachieving team in the league. They possess a world of potential and never seem to deliver. They too have made appearances in the post season, only to see their dreams for success end at the hands of other, more competent teams. Potential will only get you so far, and without solid on-court leadership, the Bulls frequently find themselves falling apart at the most inopportune times. Derrick Rose and Deng offer a tremendous future for Chicago, but Manu gets them over the hump immediately. A combination of John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas could offer a suitable trade option for Manu. Without unloading the core of the franchise Chicago could move significant salary cap space freeing up money in 2010, while giving San Antonio a chance to break Manu’s contract into two smaller pieces. Even with Salmons being 30 years old, he provides San Antonio a quality back up at the swing position, without the Manu mileage. Thomas is a young and extremely talented player, a solid defender and rebounder that could give the Spurs depth for years to come.

Let me end by saying this, there is no way I can imagine the Spurs trading Manu Ginobili. He is what this city and franchise are all about. He is one of the best clutch players of all time. When Manu’s career is over, I would love to see him walk off the court for the last time wearing the silver and black, and if we get rid of Manu who will catch the bats from now on. However absurd and inconceivable it may be, I give you the same answer my daughter gave me, “yes.” Will it happen; not a chance.


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