Manu Ginobili is aware that Father Time is undefeated against athletes.
The San Antonio Spurs guard knew that his skills would diminish as he aged. So Ginobili began refining his game last season to help combat the issue.
So far, it has helped him become a more efficient player.
Ginobili, 36, opened the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat with a 16-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 1 on Thursday. It was the Heat's first look at the new Ginobili.
"I've actually learned to play with less explosiveness," Ginoboli said. "Before, my game depended on my ability to go by a defender. Right now, I can do it for a few minutes and I run out of juice. So I have to depend more on my passing ability, my understanding of the game, the system."
Ginobili once was one of the league's most athletic players. He earned a reputation for his ability to attack the basket and play with a reckless style. Now, his game is more subdued, preferring to let things come to him.
"He's not trying to be the Manu of the old days and taking over games," guard Danny Green said. "He's kind of taking his time, playing within the team and trusting the system. He is trusting his teammates more. He's being more efficient. He's not trying to thread the needle as much."
Ginobili said he made an effort to take better care of his body before the season started. The eye opener came after an injury-filled 2012-13 season. He was bothered by a late-season hamstring injury that lingered throughout the playoffs.
"I just take more care of myself," Ginobili said. "That's very important, be smart in what you eat and that you rest."
After seeing his productivity dip last season, he averaged 12.3 points in his new role as the team's sixth man. Although most All-Stars have difficulty accepting less playing time, Ginobili has made the adjustment with ease.
He has even served as a mentor to some of the younger reserve players.
"Sometimes the good thing about coming from the bench is that you can see what's going on and what you can do better," Ginobili said. "So sometimes we communicate on the bench on things that we have really got to bring when we come into the game. I'm not the one that has to say if I'm a mentor or not, they should, but I try to share my experience and help the team when you are not making a shot."
Of spending four seasons in such a prominent place in the public eye, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday that "I think we've become a little bit more numb to it. The first year it was uncomfortable for all of us; now we're used to it. We can make jokes about it that every story line is a 'gate something' and we keep it interesting for you guys."
Spoelstra said that the thigh bruise suffered by backup center Chris Andersen in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final remains a concern.
"He actually looked probably his best [Saturday] in practice," Spoelstra said. "So we will see. You know, it was a rough week for him. But he's getting better each day."
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times