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ARG - Manu gives thumbs-up to playing at Spain 2014
SAN ANTONIO (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - One of international basketball's most famous players, San Antonio Spurs great Manu Ginobili, has announced he will play for Argentina at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Fresh of his fourth NBA title with the Spurs after a 4-1 triumph over the Miami Heat, Ginobili has decided once again to put on the famous Argentina shirt.
The side coached by Julio Lamas will play in Group B against Croatia, Greece, Senegal, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
Ginobili, the man who led Argentina to a 2004 Olympic title in Athens, had wanted to wait until the NBA Finals were over before making a decision.
"The first person I spoke to (about playing) was my wife," he wrote in a column for the La Nacion newspaper.
"I also spoke to Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) and called up Julio to confirm it.
"For the first time in my career, it wasn't an easy decision to say yes.
"Not because of what I feel for the national team, that's never under question.
"Not for patriotism, as I don't think sport has anything to do with that.
"It's no longer easy to spend the majority of my holidays away because I have three children.
"The main reason why I am playing is because of my wife.
"She supported me to do it.
"I know she makes an effort similar or more than mine and I value it a lot.
"It's not easy to leave my children, especially when I have a chance to recover the time lost (during the NBA season).
"They don't understand the reason why I'm not here, perhaps when they are older they will understand."
The feeling of being in the Argentina side is something Ginobili cherishes.
"I play in the national team because it's very beautiful what we have," he wrote, "what we have achieved in all of these years, what we feel, the experience remains and I didn't want to miss it.
"To imagine seeing my compatriots play and I watching from the TV is an image that I didn't like.
"Moreover, I felt my cycle had not finished."
"When I balanced things out, the commitment I felt with my team-mates and how much I enjoy being with them was what made me decide," he said.
"Perhaps when I'm 50, I will remember many moments of my career.
"What I've just experienced in San Antonio will be one of the most important ones.
"What can I say about the Olympics? But all of the times I've played with the national team have been very valuable.
"Even when we lost."
Argentina came within an Andres Nocioni three-pointer of making it to the Final of the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan but 'Chapu' missed from the right corner and the team then lost to the USA to finish fourth.
Ginobili played two years later at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and shone before suffering an injury in a Semi-Final defeat to the USA, yet he cheered wildly from the bench and cried for joy as Argentina beat Lithuania in the Bronze Medal Game.
In 2011, Ginobili returned to the national team to play at the FIBA Americas Championship on home soil in Mar del Plata and helped the side reach the top of the podium.
Now he is going to take aim at a return trip to the podium at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Ginobili and Argentina made it to the 2002 FIBA World Championship Final in Indianapolis and suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Yugoslavia.
The national team experience is a part of him and he doesn't want it to be over.
"I speak to my team-mates often," he said.
"I think that more or less they thought I would play (in Spain).
"But the one that needed to know the most was our coach Julio Lamas, because he has to make up the squad, prepare the team and I understand that it's not the same to do it if I'm there or not.
"I always try to give a reply in March but this time I couldn't do it.
"Before London 2012, I thought that could be my farewell but I wasn't certain.
"Now I know that I am very certain.
"This is why I want to take it from the start to the end as a farewell. I feel I'm in the condition to enjoy it a lot."
Everyone in Argentina is ecstatic by the decision, including Lamas.
"I had expectations that he would play because I know he wanted to," the coach said in an interview with basquetplus.com.
"He confirmed it today. I'm' delighted as coach of the national team because of what Manu's presence means.
"It really improves the options of the team and helps in every sense, to be a stronger and more competitive team. Manu makes his team-mates better.
"The national team is very fortunate to have players like Ginobili and (Luis) Scola as devoted leaders.
"They are an example for Argentinian sports that they are playing at the 2014 World Cup.
"Manu, it's 16 years after he started to play for the national team, and Luis 15.
"It is quite emotional to see their commitment with the national team, their passion for basketball and to compete."
Lamas remarked on a Ginobili tweet as well.
"I like the phrase Manu put in his twitter 'I'm in' because that really defines it," Lamas said.
"It's symbolic. Manu is always in.
"With everything, mind, physical effort, soul and the phrase is spot on."
Lamas has also confirmed the presence of eight other players in the Argentina squad for this summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup.
One is Walter Herrmann, who turns 35 on Thursday.
The former NBA forward last represented the country at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan and elected not to make himself available in tournaments since.
Herrmann was a very important reserve in the Argentina team that finished top of the podium at the Athens Games. In the 89-81 Semi-Final triumph over the United States, he came off the bench and in 14 minutes scored 11 points and corralled four rebounds.
Carlos Delfino, another member of that 2004 side and a vital player for Argentina ever since, is among the players who will go to Spain although he must first show he has fully recovered from the foot injury that prevented him from playing at all for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013-14 NBA season.
The other members of this squad for Spain 2014 are expected to be chosen from the team that is to compete at South American Championship (24-28 July) in Venezuela.
Nine of 12 Argentina players confirmed for FIBA Basketball World Cup: Facundo Campazzo, Emanuel Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Pablo Prigioni, Leonardo Gutierrez, Juan Gutierrez, Andres Nocioni and Walter Herrmann.