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Without Manu: Spurs Fans React

There is a busy San Antonio Spurs message board called SpursTalk.com. When news hit that Manu Ginobili was out for the season, there were several early reactions. None were optimistic, and the most common reaction was a single four-letter word that starts with f, and ends PG-13.

Eventually slivers of optimism emerged. Now we get to see what George Hill can do, said some. Tony Parker can take over. But those were tempered by calls to rest Tim Duncan. (As long as the Spurs have no chance at a title, they might as well get their franchise player healthy, as the thinking goes.)

There are well wishes for Ginobili. There is talk of rebuilding around Parker, who is just 26. There is talk that Ginobili should have been traded for Vince Carter, that he never should have played for his national team last summer, and that the Spurs' medical staff was too aggressive. There is speculation that Ginobili, who has one year left on his contract, may have played his last game in a Spurs uniform.

One of the most "2009" moments of the conversation comes when one Spurs fan suggests meeting to "drown their sorrows," and another points out that that would cost money, a headache and maybe a DUI.

The comments are similarly pained at Pounding the Rock, where much of the discussion focuses on the reality that the latest medical news suggests he ought to have taken more time off -- he now has a "stress fracture" where he used to have a "stress reaction." Those comments contain a reminder of Ginobili's better days, though, where CMoney has a great line: "Superman wears Manu Ginobili pajamas to bed."

Timothy Varner of the Spurs' blog 48 Minutes of Hell, on what happens when a great team loses a great player:

In their worst years, the San Antonio Spurs are better than all but a few teams. Take this year: there hasn't been a single stretch when the Spurs were firing on all cylinders, but I'd still pick them, sans Manu Ginobili, in a 7 game series against every team in the league, save the Cavs, Lakers, Celtics and Magic. That's an incredible statement, I know. But it's true. Let it sink in.

This franchise is measured by a standard of excellence that is inconceivable to most.

But the punditry of decline spoke clearly, just over the shoulder, predicting demise. "They're too old," the voices buzzed and droned. "They're too old."

But the Spurs were willing to play the game of Russian Roulette; the Spurs were willing to bet that a team loaded with veterans had a 5 in 6 chance of pushing through to a championship. It was an all or nothing gamble that had paid off several times over. One cannot overstate how crucial the presence of veteran role players has been to San Antonio. The Spurs took their chances, and the gun never discharged. Click. Click. Click. Deep breath. Click. Click. They were winning at Russian Roulette.

Until now. This is the season the bullet revolved into the chamber. When the Spurs pulled the trigger, the season collapsed to the floor, clumsily slumping toward death.

Graydon Gordian also writes for 48 Minutes of Hell, and is finding a certain kind of solace in adjusting to supporting a team with some newfound underdog appeal:

This is the first season in over a decade the Spurs head into the playoffs out of contention.

Our spoiled upbringing does not make that a less difficult pill to swallow. But what I am about to say, I say unequivocally: I am looking forward to this postseason more than any I can remember. After today's events, that sounds like lunacy. And in all fairness, I never claimed to be sane. But it is genuinely how I feel nonetheless.

I say that because we still have an opportunity to play our game; to play to our full potential (as currently constructed). And every time we do, I'll be here writing about it. We can still make it to the Western Conference Finals. It will be difficult; much more difficult than before. But it is still possible. And this time, when we win, nobody will look back and say, "it was inevitable." Because inevitability has nothing to do with that happens from here on out.

Starting April 18th, the Spurs will earn every inch they take. There will be no easy wins. There will be no 4 or 5 game series. We will be a fraction of our former selves but that does not mean we can't play our game.

We may lose in the first round. We may make what will be described by superficial analysts as a "characteristically deep" playoff run. But no matter what happens, I won't sit down at my television confidently expecting a particular outcome. We are back in the pack. But as a fan, that is reason to rejoice. Each game will be a testament to basketball's dramatic capacity. Yes, the history books will remember '99, '03, '05, and '07. But many insightful observers of the NBA may remember this year. They'll remember because this was the season the Spurs would not go gentle into that good night.