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“Ginobili that was a pick that a lot of people knew was going to be good,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. “It’s just at the time a lot of people didn’t want to wait for him.”

The Spurs were willing to wait, and it’s paid off handsomely with the left-hander helping them win three titles and then registering 24 points and 10 assists in their Game 5 victory over Miami. He has also helped other foreign players like Tiago Splitter and Nando De Colo make the transition to the United States.

“The first years I started to feel like a guide to the new guys, it felt great, because I needed that at the beginning,” Ginobili said. “Being sort of an icon or staple player on this team feels really good. I’m very lucky. And at the same time, it’s great to have so many international players that went through some of the things you went through.”

Assistant coach Chad Forcier also deserves plenty of credit. He worked hard with Green to smooth out his jumper and has spent countless hours with many of the projects the Spurs have taken on over the years. The long and winding road that many of these players have taken to get here comes through in the hunger they show on the court.

“Just dealing with the reality that I wasn’t going to get drafted, that’s like a crossroad for a lot of guys coming out of college,” Neal said. “You realize you’re not going to get drafted and there’s a great chance that you might not become an NBA player. You kind of have to make your mind up that you want to continue on professionally and take the European route and take it seriously.”

When they arrive in San Antonio, they see a lot of other players just like them. A bond is formed and a support system is fostered.

“I think there’s a lot of guys with the Spurs who didn’t have the easy way, one-and-done in college and then bam, you have a career,” Bonner said. “A lot of guys on our team have had to go through the journey of maybe all four years of college, maybe the D-league, maybe overseas. I think that builds character and it makes you appreciate playing in the NBA and playing for an organization like the Spurs that much more.”


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