The San Antonio Spurs will partake in a NBA game that actually matters tonight in New Orleans.
The last time that happened was four months ago — June 6, precisely — when the Oklahoma City Thunder were busy putting the finishing touches on a seven-point series clinching victory.
The Spurs, for the most part, are bringing back the same roster. The Hornets, meanwhile, freed their roster of 11 players in order to give highly touted rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers ample time to develop.
Ryan Anderson, acquired in a sign-and-trade deal from Orlando, will complement Davis’ athleticism with a nice balance of perimeter shooting and offensive rebounding. Robin Lopez will also allow Davis to play power forwards on occasion, limiting the wear and tear on his nimble 6-foot-10, 220 pound frame.
For the most part, the Hornets will be a work and progress. The Spurs struggled to execute in exhibition play, their 4-3 preseason record notwithstanding, but it wasn’t due to a lack of continuity.
If their practice was any indication — which coach Gregg Popovich dubbed as one of the best preseasons he’s been apart of — the Spurs will likely return to their peak efficiency sooner, rather than later.
For a Hornets squad that will start three players absent from last year’s roster in Davis, Lopez and Rivers, that couldn’t be a worse predicament.
Tim Duncan on this year’s No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis:
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Tim Duncan said. “He’s very young and very raw, but he’s got some good leadership with Monty there. I think (Williams) is going to do a good job with him, getting him ready.”
Duncan vs. Lopez? It appears that Davis, the 19-year-old star hailing from the University of Kentucky, will be matched up against Duncan, of whom he is compared to. The comparison isn’t perfect — as Davis is more reliant on his athleticism than Duncan ever was — but pundits feel compelled to throw it around otherwise.
Hornets coach Monty Williams did indicate, however, that Lopez would be defending Duncan for the majority of the night.
De Colo to get an early trial run? With Ginobili missing tonight’s game with a back injury, perhaps De Colo will get an extended run along with the second unit that could use a shot creating guard.
Where to watch: The game will be shown on KENS locally and NBA TV nationally at 7 p.m. CST. It will also air on stations 1200 WOAI and 1350 KCOR in Spanish.
Injury report: Manu Ginobili (back spasms) did not travel with the team though Tony Parker believes he will play tomorrow against Oklahoma City.
Eric Gordon (knee) is out indefintely. The 23-year-old shooting guard missed 57 games last season with ongoing knee issues.
Jason Smith (shoulder) will play tonight. Smith was among the most proficient power forwards from 16-23 feet last year; he converted on 48% of these attempts, only behind Nick Collison and Dirk Nowitzki.
Rookie Austin Rivers (ankle) practiced last week and will start at shooting guard alongside point guard Greivis Vasquez.