After a left ankle injury hampered Manu Ginobili during the 2008 postseason and a fractured right ankle sidelined him during the following year's playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs were admittedly a bit hesitant before signing the veteran guard to an extension last spring.
So far, it's proven to be a wise investment.
Ginobili and the NBA-best Spurs go for their eighth win in a row overall and seventh straight at AT&T Center on Saturday night when they face the Memphis Grizzlies, who stumbled to open their two-game Texas trip.
With his contract ending following the 2009-10 season, Ginobili proved that the injuries that limited him to 44 games in 2008-09 would not prevent him from playing a major role in the Spurs' future. During an 11-game stretch prior to signing a three-year, $39 million extension on April 9, Ginobili averaged 25.7 points and 6.1 assists and was one of the main reasons why San Antonio reached its 13th consecutive postseason.
"It's always good to have information that helps leads you to make decisions," Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said after the deal was finalized.
Buford seems to have made the right decision. Ginobili leads San Antonio (22-3) with a career-high 20.0 points per game, but more importantly, continues to deliver with the game on the line.
After hitting a buzzer-beating jumper Wednesday to give the Spurs a 92-90 victory over Milwaukee, the 33-year-old Argentina native made a go-ahead runner with 4.2 seconds remaining before taking a charge from Carmelo Anthony as time expired in Thursday's 113-112 win in Denver.
"He's a stud," coach Gregg Popovich said of Ginobili. "He's been a competitor, he's won championships here and overseas and he's been MVPs of things. He scored the two free throws down the stretch, then he scored the winning bucket and then he took the charge. That pretty much says it all about what he's capable of doing."
Hours after signing his deal last season, Ginobili scored a team-high 26 points but the Spurs lost 107-99 to end their 10-game home winning streak against Memphis.
The Grizzlies (12-15) would like a similar result as they make the first of two visits to AT&T Center in 2010-11. Memphis, though, is coming off one of its worst performances of the season, scoring 33 first-half points in Friday's 103-87 loss to Houston.
"We came in here to try to make a statement that we could play with them, but they showed us that we haven't matured enough and gotten on the level that they're on with their group," coach Lionel Hollins said.
That immaturity cost the Grizzlies with leading scorer Rudy Gay suspended for this game for knocking down Rockets forward Luis Scola in the fourth quarter and getting ejected for a flagrant-2 foul.
"I kind of let my anger get the best of me, and it's not characteristic of me or anybody else on this team," Gay said. "Me, as a leader, I probably shouldn't have done that."
The loss of Gay, who is averaging a team-high 21.0 points, could be too much for Memphis to overcome as it faces a Spurs team holding opponents to 93.0 points and 43.6-percent shooting from the field during its seven-game win streak.
San Antonio is 23-6 all-time at home against the Grizzlies.