Popovich: Hill to start if Manu can’t

By Mike Monroe

Manu Ginobili continues to be listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game with a sprained right elbow, but he was hard at work at the team’s practice facility on Friday.

While his teammates prepared for Game 1 of the Spurs-Grizzlies first-round playoff series, injured guard Ginobili worked on cardiovascular conditioning and strength training.

Some of his strength training included lifts with his injured right arm.

While reiterating that there is no change in Ginobili’s status for Sunday’s game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich expressed confidence he would return to action during the series.

“He will be back at some point for sure,” he said.

If Ginobili does not return on Sunday, George Hill will start in his shooting guard spot.

“George Hill will probably take his place as a starter, if, in fact, Manu doesn’t play, and right now, it looks that way,” Popovich said. “We’ve got a day and a half to see if (Ginobili) heals any more, see what’s going on, but at this point George Hill would be the guy who starts.”

It will be important, Popovich said, for Hill to play the aggressive, purposeful game that makes him, in Popovich’s words, “Indiana George.”

“Pop means Indiana George from back in Indianapolis, from college and high school,” Hill said, “being a freak of nature on offense with defense coming first or second. But just having fun out there. Being aggressive at all times.”

Popovich said Hill will be important even if Ginobili suits up.

“With or without Manu, George Hill is important to us,” he said. “He’s a fine, young player and does a good job at both ends of the court. Manu’s injury has nothing to do with George, in that sense. Even with Manu, he’s got to play well for us.”

BRING IT: Convinced the Grizzlies rested key players in their final two games to ensure they would land in the No. 8 seed and face the Spurs, rather than the No. 2 seed Lakers, the Spurs have mustered up a sense of mild outrage.

“Let’s play basketball,” Hill said. “I can see them going through those steps. Who cares what they did, if they sat, or if the coach coached or didn’t coach. The playoffs are different though. I don’t know why they want us so bad. We’re 2-2 against them. Fifty percent. But if that’s what they want, to take their chances against us, then bring it, I guess.”

ZZ TIM: Spurs captain Tim Duncan hasn’t shaved in a while, a scraggly beard getting a tad shaggy in recent days.

Is it a traditional playoff beard, the sort favored by some pro athletes who vow not to shave as long as the playoffs continue?

“It’s more of a laziness beard,” he said, “but we’ll call it a playoff beard. I’ll take that. It won’t last for long, though. My wife’s already disowned me.”

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