Jan. 17, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 120-98. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Spurs vs. Heat: Preview, game time and TV schedule

The San Antonio Spurs are 3-1 in the preseason with wins over the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Montepaschi Siena.

Of course, preseason wins don’t amount to anything. Preseason is merely an avenue in which teams get starters up to speed, decide rotation slots and fill the final roster spot(s). The Spurs have done so and with 14 players on the current roster, they may decide to deploy their starters more often.

Is there a better team to test the Spurs rotation, in the low-risk setting of the preseason, than the defending champion Miami Heat? As of now, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been reluctant to play Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker extended minutes, the latter two having played in the Olympics.

With three preseason games remaining before the regular season opener against the New Orleans Hornets on Oct. 31, it would not hurt to have the starters play close to their usual minutes. It could happen today (and if so, Popovich probably would have most sitting in tomorrow’s game against the Orlando Magic) or later this week. Or it could not happen at all as forwards Derrick Brown and Josh Powell and center Eddy Curry are making compelling cases for the 15th spot.

The smaller, the better: The 2-2 Heat have trotted out a starting lineup consisting of guards Norris Cole and Dwyane Wade, whose surgically repaired knee is progressing well according to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, forwards Shane Battier and LeBron James and center Chris Bosh.

The lineup doesn’t contain two traditional big men. James will fill in the power forward position, a role in which his skills are certainly suited for. The Heat didn’t fully discover their potential until they deployed smaller lineups and it will continue to play a big part in their success.

Witherspoon unavailable this weekend: According to to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, wing Wesley Witherspoon did not make it to the trip this weekend. Nothing is concrete but it doesn’t seem likely he will be on the roster much longer.

Splitter in Popovich’s dog house? Tiago Splitter has appeared in three preseason games, averaging 1.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 10 minutes per game. The 27-year-old center has missed four of six attempts. Meanwhile, DeJuan Blair is parlaying on the most consistent preseason efforts on the team.

Where to watch: The game will be shown on NBA TV at 2:30 p.m. CST. It will also air on stations 1200 WOAI and 1350 KCOR in Spanish.

Injury report: Tim Duncan (sick) returned to practice Wednesday.

Gary Neal was also affected by the apparent bug being passed around. No indication that he will miss today’s game though.

Patty Mills (right ankle sprain) participated in non-contact drills this week. He hasn’t played since Oct. 6 against Siena.

As for the Heat, LeBron James (soreness) will miss today’s game. Joel Anthony, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Jarvis Varnado will also be absent from the lineup. 16-year veteran Ray Allen will start in place of James.

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