“Do You Think I’m Better Than Manu Ginobili?”
Oklahoma City 105, San Antonio 109 // 47-10 // 1st in the West
No, Gary, you’re not. But keep playing games like this, and keep learning tricks from Manu, and someday you may be.
Gary Neal might be my new favorite Spur. And he’s getting a lot of publicity of late. Jeff McDonald did a wonderful piece on Gary Neal over at mysa.com. Gary Neal was featured on Outside the Lines on ESPN last Sunday morning. His story is an amazing one, for sure. But it’s his game that has me all gooey-eyed. He started the season as a question mark. He quickly answered that question with the phrase “spot up 3-point shooter”. Easy enough. The Spurs always need those players.
But that wasn’t nearly the entire story. As the season progressed, those of us that watch him closely started to realize many different aspects to his game. He plays tenacious D, and isn’t afraid to put his body in harm’s way to take a charge, grab a board, or get a stop. On offense, he has a deadly mid-range game, pull-up jumper, and even a reliable teardrop on drives to the rim.
All of this was on display in the win over Oklahoma City Wednesday night. But something new showed up, also: court vision. Not quite Ginobili-esque, but very good nonetheless. On at least 3 drives to the basket, instead of taking a shot, he made his move and with nifty passing found a wide open big man under the basket for an easy score. None of these were run of the mill plays; they all required excellent timing, vision, and ball skills. All 3 were beautiful and eye-opening. Has Neal been learning from the master himself, Ginobili?
We all thought we had found another reliable 3-point shooter to plug into our system; turns out, we had found a whole lot more. Come playoff time, the difference in what we thought Neal was and what he actually is might be the difference between a win and a loss, between advancing and going home.