SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is aware that Father Time is undefeated against athletes.
He knew at some point his skills would diminish as he aged. So Ginobili began refining his game last year to help combat the issue.
Thus far, it has worked as he's become a more efficient player than in years past. He opened the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat with a 16-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 1. It was the Heat's first look at the new Ginobili.
"I've actually learned to play with less explosiveness," said Ginoboli, 36. "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."
Time was, Ginobili 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 campaign. 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 year, he averaged 12.3 points in his new role as the team's sixth man. While most All-Stars have difficulty accepting decreased minutes, Ginobili has made the adjustment with ease.
He's 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."
COUNTRY SUPPORTS BELINELLI
Heat forward LeBron James is known for turning off his phone once the postseason starts.
For the Spurs' Marco Belinelli, it's been the exact opposite. He is the first Italian to play in the Finals, meaning an entire country is cheering him on. Belinelli said he's been flooded with texts and phone calls during the series.
And he loves it.
"I don't want to turn off my phone," Belinelli said. "I want to stay on the phone with my family."
Belinelli said he is appreciative of the support. Fans wake early in the morning to catch the games in Italy because of the time difference.
"All the people in Italy are going crazy," he said. "They're going to watch the games and wait until 6 o'clock in the morning. That's pretty amazing for me. I'm going to try to do my best and do it for my country."
Guard Tony Parker can relate to the experience. He endured the same treatment when he became the first French player to win a title.
"It was the same thing," Parker said. "It was at the beginning of when the NBA was becoming very big in Europe. It started with the Olympics in Barcelona and just grew from there. When I made it to the Finals for the first time, obviously my country was very proud ... It was pretty big deal at home. I'm sure for Marco, it's a big deal right now."
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