Manu Ginobili is another matter. His contract expires this summer and the 35-year-old guard was unsure of his plans following Game 7.
Ginobili battled injuries and a declining game all season, and those struggles only exacerbated in the postseason. He averaged 11.5 points in the playoffs, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2003, and he committed eight turnovers in the Game 6 loss.
Barring a career renaissance like Duncan is enjoying, Ginobili’s place amongst the team’s Big 3 is likely at an end.
If Ginobili doesn’t bounce back, the Spurs discovered a replacement in Kawhi Leonard.
After averaging 11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in the regular season, the second-year forward averaged 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the postseason while stymieing James defensively for much of the finals.
“(He is) unbelievably coachable, a hard worker,” Popovich said. “He’s going to be a future star because he’s like a babe in the woods, still. I don’t even call plays for him and you see what he does out on the court. He’s just beginning to feel his way and he will be getting the ball more and more as time goes on.”
Leonard was invited to play for USA Basketball, but his availability is in doubt because of chronic knee soreness he experienced in the final months of the season.
“It’s obviously an honor, to be involved in USA basketball in any way, shape or form and Kawhi is thrilled with the selection,” Popovich said, “but we need to talk to the doctors to make sure he is able to do it.”
Leonard’s continued development, along with those of younger players such as Danny Green, Gary Neal, Cory Joseph, Tiago Splitter and Nando De Colo will be key to the team’s continued success because the Spurs are not expected to make any major trades or free-agent signings.
“People have been telling us to get younger for the last 15 years, I think,” Popovich said. “So, we stopped listening to that a long time ago. At one point, I guess we will be too old, who knows when that is. Going to the conference finals last year and Finals this year kind of proves that something is going right.”
With that, Popovich figuratively doffed his San Antonio Spurs cap at the media that had gathered on a Saturday morning and went back into the team’s practice facility to continue working towards next season.
“Thanks for everything,” he said. “You guys were great all year long, and ladies, but I am happy I don’t have to do it again until September.”