Since suffering a testicular injury back on February 2 against the New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili has been out of action.
The Argentinian underwent surgery shortly after sustaining the injury and reports up until now had suggested the road to full fitness would be a long one - some even speculating he wouldn't play again this season.
An update today, however, from the San Antonio Express-News' Buck Harvey is more positive. According to the reporter, the Spurs are increasingly optimistic after watching Ginobili do some work in Monday's shootaround, and believe he could return to the court as early as March 10.
Per Harvey's report:
"He still has a way to go, and he’s wearing some protection he didn’t wear before. But the Spurs are now optimistic.
"If Ginobili continues to progress as expected, they think he could be back for a few minutes as early as March 10 against Chicago."
Should the 38-year-old make good on the updated time frame, he will have missed 15 games in total during his recovery and he would actually meet the initial expectations for his return when the testicular injury occurred.
Getting Ginobili back into the fold with over one month of the regular season to go would also be a big boost for the franchise as they prepare for what will be a tough Western Conference postseason.
Of course, Gregg Popovich is unlikely to rush one of his seasoned veterans back onto the court before he is totally ready.
Considering too Pop's somewhat pessimistic prognosis over the weekend - the coach stating his player wasn't able to do much more than walk around the court - not to mention the fact the Spurs are 9-1 since Ginobili last took to the court, you could certainly argue they would be foolish to rush him back into action sooner than required.
The Spurs know this, and know the situation regarding one of their veterans better than anyone else. The fact then that there is talk of a return against the Bulls a week on Thursday suggests Ginobili's progress has hit an upward curve.
The shooting guard had been contributing 10 points and 3.3 assists in just under 20 minutes per game before his injury, and his talent and experience will be an invaluable addition to the Spurs as they go in search of their fifth Larry O'Brien Trophy over the next few weeks and months.
Even if Ginobili is only healthy enough to be eased back into the rotation come March 10, the timing of his return would be much welcomed by the Spurs.
After facing the Bulls on the 10th, San Antonio face a tough four-game home stretch in which they face the Thunder, Clippers, Trail Blazers and Warriors respectively.