It’s the end of the first quarter, and Gregg Popovich has called the play. Stephen Jackson is waiting to make the inbounds pass.

Then, the Pistons bring in a rookie, Khris Middleton from Texas A&M, to defend Manu Ginobili. Ginobili looks at Jackson, and Jackson looks back at him, and they are on.

What followed said something about this year, and about other years, too.

Ginobili will be back next season, though he says there are no guarantees. At his age, he says, it’s year to year.

“But ask me right now,” he said Sunday, “and I’d like to play two more years for sure.”

His fans would prefer 10 years, but at least his timeline fits with others. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, for example, currently have contracts through 2015.

Ginobili’s contract ends this summer. And while he’s currently the highest-paid Spur, it’s likely a hometown compromise could be reached with him as it was with Duncan before.

He acknowledged Sunday he feels the years. “Little things” that wouldn’t have physically bothered him before now do. Given that, he eats better, and he stretches more, and he says he’s “less crazy” than he was eight years ago.

Less crazy?

He smiled, acting out how he pulled back against the Pistons, when there were few signs he actually did. After his only turnover, for example, he sprinted back to draw a charge.

Still crazy after all these years. “And I love that,” Jackson said. “I’d rather play with someone like him, who plays hard and gets hurt, than someone who is afraid.”

But it’s also a style most thought would sadly shorten his career. Duncan had the fundamental game that promised to endure; El Contusión has been on schedule to wear out both his body and MRI equipment.

This season presented the same. As Parker jetted to another level, Ginobili is averaging the fewest minutes since his rookie year.

But if he’s always been crazy, he’s also always found his game after injuries. That’s why the next few weeks, in Parker’s absence, will give better evidence of where Ginobili is in his career.