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SPUR NOTES

They Feel the Global Warming

May 10, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

In San Antonio they are big men among a team of big men.

But in their homelands, they have become giants.

Guards Tony Parker (France) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina) have inspired unprecedented interest in pro basketball in their countries, according to two men who joined the media pack following the team.

"He has become a national hero," said Nelson Da Silva of El Grafico, an Argentine magazine, of Ginobili.

Ginobili, born in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, made his professional debut in his native country before moving on to Italy. But he hasn't been forgotten.

Everywhere on the streets of Buenos Aires this weekend, Da Silva said, TV screens will be tuned to the Laker-Spur series, beaming the game to diners and shoppers.

Sportswriters, while not traveling on a regular basis with the Spurs, speak to Ginobili by cell phone. There is a set time when he is available for quotes.

"They follow his every move," Da Silva said.

And, of course, Da Silva will continue his coverage. His magazine already has done five stories on the nation's new favorite son with more to come.

"In the last six months," Da Silva said, "there has been an explosion of interest in basketball in Argentina because of [Ginobili]."

Olivier Pheulpin of the French newspaper L'Equipe, has been covering the Spurs for the last two years.

"I've moved in with Tony Parker," he said with a laugh.

"He has really gained stature in France," said Pheulpin of Parker, who was born in Belgium, but was raised in France and began his career there. "You see his picture all over Paris and he has a successful basketball camp there now. Seventy-five percent of the interest in that country in basketball is because of him."

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San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo says give credit where credit is due: The players make it happen, not the coaches.

"We all over-analyze in the playoffs," Carlesimo said. "The coaches always go nuts trying to make sure the team is prepared, but it really comes down to the players.... It's as simple as that.... The first game was close because they had a couple of guys play well and we had a couple step up. In the second game, we had like seven guys play well and they had just two."

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Times staff writer Lonnie White contributed to this report.

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