Italian job: It is Manu’s choice

This time, no one can question Manu Ginobili.

This time, he isn’t limping with an injury that risks his partnership with the Spurs.

This time, the NBA is the one not honoring the contract.

So if Ginobili decides to return to his old team in Italy to earn some money and enjoy la dolce vita?

Ciao and good luck.

Virtus Bologna called Ginobili earlier this month. And even if he’s only a rental until the lockout is over, the move makes sense.

The club has slumped in recent years. So why not bring back such a popular former player, as well as someone who added NBA credibility and global visibility after he left, and sell a few tickets?

And if Kobe Bryant joined Ginobili, well, Virtus Bologna would become the Miami Heat of the lockout world.

Ginobili said he would decide by October, and he was initially appreciative of the offer. But his family doubts he wants to play in Europe. He exhausted himself in the recent FIBA Americas tournament and, besides, Ginobili’s personality doesn’t lend itself to this.

He’s not in need of constant attention, and he’s never come across as someone who is either obsessed with money or has carelessly spent it. If there is meaningful currency in his life, it’s likely with his twin boys.

He doesn’t need the money, either. Ginobili has already earned over $66 million with the Spurs alone and is under contract for another $27 million over the next two seasons.

Still, an extended lockout will cut into that contract. Those who think a few million Euros are trivial, considering his career earnings, aren’t thinking as his financial advisers do; a few million Euros matter even to the wealthy.

There’s also something that a person in the Spurs’ organization thinks might be a factor: Ginobili “isn’t going to want to sit around for few months and do nothing.”

Ginobili’s peers are already reacting that way. Deron Williams is over there now and, after last week’s official cancelation of some preseason games, others are looking to follow.

“If (the lockout) goes past the middle of October or November,” Kevin Durant told Yahoo! Sports, “I think I will have to make a decision.”

Durant has options in Turkey, Spain and Russia. For a young man who has mostly had to adjust to the differences between Austin and Oklahoma City, that would be an adventure to mysterious ports.

For Ginobili, already fluent in Italian, the trip would be an enjoyable trip back in time. In Bologna, he was the Final Four MVP of Euroleague in 2000-01.

He also might fondly remember the one-game-a-week European schedule. In the perfect world, wouldn’t he have always been able to play this way?

The Spurs don’t like thinking about the repercussions. Playing in Argentina this summer was one thing, this is another. As always with Ginobili, the more drives to the basket, the more risk.

Remember, Ginobili broke a bone in his right elbow in a seemingly harmless play in the final regular-season game last season. That moment was as responsible as any for the first-round loss to Memphis that followed.

Another continent of games would bring another series of possibilities, and Ginobili wouldn’t see these as playful exhibitions. He’s not built that way, either.

If the Spurs would like to talk to him about all of this, they can’t. Under lockout guidelines, communication isn’t allowed.

And even if they could talk, what could they say?

This time, unlike 2008 when they wanted Ginobili and his sore foot to skip Beijing, the Spurs don’t have an argument. Their league is the one not allowing Ginobili to hone his craft, and their league is the one nullifying his contract.

What could they say?

Ciao and good luck.

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