For the first time in four months, the San Antonio Spurs won’t be playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They won’t be playing against themselves either as they did on Wednesday in their public intrasquad scrimmage.
Tonight the Spurs will welcome Italian league superpower Montepaschi Siena to the AT&T Center at 7:30 p.m. CST. Siena has won six consecutive Italian league championships, five Italian supercups while appearing in four Euroleague final fours.
Battling bankruptcy, Siena will not bring the same talent as their fans have been accustomed to. Head coach Simone Pianigiani left the team for Fenerbahçe Ülker, the Turkish team who defeated the Boston Celtics yesterday in Istanbul. Luca Banchi was promoted to fill the gaping hole created by Pianigiani.
Along with their new head coach and mercurial financial situation, Siena will also be without valuable rotation members like Rimantas Kaukenas and Ksystof Lavrinovic, whose options were declined. Bo McCalebb, who was linked to the Spurs this offseason, and David Andersen were sold to Fenerbahçe Ülker to alleviate the financial burden. Milovan Rakovic also left and team leader Shaun Stonerook retired.
Siena brought in eight new players including 6-foot-8 forward Viktor Sanikidze, who was drafted with the 42nd pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and later traded to the Spurs. Sanikidze led the Italian league in rebounding last season and appears to be a solid bet to contribute this season.
On the Spurs front, they will bring 19 players following the departure of training camp signee Sherron Collins. Collins was a late addition to the team on Monday before he was cut four days later. Considering this is the Spurs’ first preseason game and the roster is still above the maximum NBA roster size of 15, names like Wesley Witherspoon, Cory Joseph, Derrick Brown and veterans Eddy Curry and Josh Powell will likely earn the majority of playing time.
Curry and Powell were “big” additions — literally and figuratively — and could make inroads at the final roster spot with a solid showing. Powell seems to have the upper hand after he finished with 13 points and six rebounds in Wednesday’s intrasquad scrimmage. Curry recorded four points on 1-of-5 shooting in 21 minutes. He also failed to grab a rebound, remarkable for a seven-footer that does not stray from the paint. (Caveat: Statistics aren’t official.)
But first impressions are important. Be it from San Antonio’s perspective — rebounding from a tough playoff exit — or from Siena’s prospective — rebounding from a mass organizational overhaul or from Curry’s prospective. The Spurs are hoping they will quell their frustration with a win tonight.
Where to watch
I haven’t found any local stations carrying the game so if you have had any luck, let me know. The game will be carried on 1200 WOAI and 1350 in Spanish.
Tiago Splitter (back spasms) missed Wednesday’s intrasquad scrimmage and is day-to-day. The injury does not appear to be serious. The injury report has been notably quiet as of late. (Knocks on wood.)
Photo courtesy of cdn.euroleague.net