SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Win or lose, Sunday marked the final home game of this season for the Spurs. The series shifts back to Miami for Game 6 on Tuesday night, and the winner will be decided on South Beach.
That also means that Spurs fans may have had their last chance to cheer for Manu Ginobili in the black and silver. Ginobili will turn 36 in July and is a free agent at the end of this season. He has struggled mightily in these playoffs and entered Game 5 averaging 7.5 points and shooting 34 percent in the series.
Ginobili simply hasn’t looked like the dynamic, unpredictable playmaker he’s been for most of his career, leading some, including himself, to wonder if he has another season left in him.
“Everything is a day-by-day basis,” Ginobili said. “Once the season finishes and I see how I feel, I can’t imagine me not playing at least one more year here, but time will tell. We’ll see.”
He’s played his entire career in San Antonio, a stay that was extended when he signed a three-year, $39 million extension three years ago. He’s struggled with hamstring injuries this season, but said he feels fine physically right now.
At the end of a long season, Ginobili admits to being tired and wondering how much more basketball he has left in him. Then he thinks about what the game, and San Antonio, has meant to him, and has trouble picturing himself walking away.
“Sometimes I do think about retirement,” he told reporters Saturday. “But then I say, ‘No, no. I love what I do. I’m very lucky to be in a franchise like this. So I really can’t picture myself being retired already.’
“There’s a small chance. It’s not that I’m really considering, but I can never say ‘no’ for sure, because I sometimes consider it.”
The Spurs faithful aren’t giving up on him just yet. A banner at AT&T Center on Sunday night read, “We Gino-believe.”
MIAMI FINISH: This season did not actually start in Miami; there was a game in Cleveland that tipped off an hour before the Heat opened defense of their NBA title against the Boston Celtics.
But for the third straight season, the NBA schedule will end in Miami.
Dallas won its 2011 championship in Miami, and the Heat closed out the 2012 finals against Oklahoma City at home as well. And with Games 6 and 7 (the latter if necessary) of this series also to be played in South Florida, it marks the first time that one team has hosted the final NBA game in three consecutive seasons since Boston did so in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
The luxury of going home for the end of the NBA Finals wasn’t something the Heat were all that interested in discussing before Game 5 in San Antonio.
“It doesn’t matter where our next game is,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “It could be on Mars.”
NO FIGHTING: There was a fair amount of pushing and shoving in the Miami-Chicago series, and certainly no love lost between Miami and Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals.
In the NBA Finals, the Heat haven’t been dealing with vitriol.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade told NBA TV that not only is this series just about basketball — and rest assured, that’s OK with both teams — but that Miami thinks San Antonio’s players are “nice.”
“Nothing is happening in the games that has been chippy,” Wade said. “I don’t really know how a lot of them even sound. They don’t speak much to you or say anything.”
It has been rather gentlemanly, as indicated earlier in the series when Miami’s Mario Chalmers extended an arm and pulled San Antonio’s Tim Duncan up after the Spurs’ forward took a tumble near the baseline.
NBA TV: Commissioner David Stern, who is presiding over his last finals after 30 years on the job, has watched the league’s television channel — NBATV — grow from just an idea to a full-fledged production that is celebrating its 14th year of broadcasting at the NBA Finals.
The channel has grown into one distributed to 61 million homes, provided 40 hours of live coverage of the finals and, with a partnership with NBA Digital and Turner, has put together an impressive product with analysts that include Barkley, Rick Fox and Steve Smith, who were at the game on Sunday night. Postgame shows, highlight packages, televised press conferences, it’s all there.
“It’s a whole new world for us and we’re very excited by it,” Stern said.
The NBA is also encouraged by the league’s reach on social media. The league has received 410 million likes and followers combined across all platforms, including 60 million in China. The NBA’s first tweet came in 2009 and the account has grown to have 7.3 million followers and the league’s videos posted on YouTube have been viewed 1.45 billion times.
“Our ability on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to reach out to millions of fans is really very exciting,” Stern said. “And it becomes really a digital ecosystem, and that’s a big deal for us.”
NOTES: With his final point of Game 4, Miami’s LeBron James increased his career postseason total to 3,777 points, one more than John Havlicek for ninth on the league’s all-time list. And in Game 5, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan was breaking a tie with Scottie Pippen for sixth place outright in NBA history with 209 career playoff appearances. … James entered Game 5 just 52 minutes shy of matching Indiana’s Paul George for the total-minutes-played lead (including playoffs) in the league this season. It puts James on pace to lead the league in that category for the second time in three years. … Neither team is expected to practice Monday, as both settle again in Miami to prepare for Game 6 on Tuesday night.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.