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

By Quixem Ramirez

December 29, 2011; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard James Anderson (25) drives the ball past Houston Rockets guard Goran Dragic (3) in the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

The San Antonio Spurs took care of an inferior Montepaschi Siena squad on Saturday. Limiting them to less than 30% shooting was an accomplishment but that is unlikely to repeat itself against the Atlanta Hawks, who enter tonight’s game with a 13-point win over the Miami Heat. (It is preseason so it doesn’t mean anything.)

This year’s iteration of the Hawks looks markedly different from previous versions. The Hawks have been stuck in basketball purgatory — the middle-class. By flipping Joe Johnson, and his remaining $84.29 million, Atlanta essentially eliminated a core that couldn’t advance past the semifinals. They won’t make it that far with this team but acquiring a higher lottery pick is worth the risk.

Lou Williams (three-years, $15.68 million) will be asked to replace Johnson. The 25-year-old guard likely won’t replicate the success of Johnson, a six-time All-Star, but he can score reasonably well. Other free agent additions include James Anderson, Damion James, Ivan Johnson and Anthony Tolliver. The Hawks have been active in the trade market, too; Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro and DeShawn Stevenson could fill in small roles for the team. This isn’t including John Jenkins and Mike Scott, Atlanta’s two draft picks. General manager Danny Ferry isn’t interested in creating a team constructed to make the playoffs and fail; as a result, the entire foundation was renovated. Losing games remains their best option to fortify their organization.

Ferry didn’t dismantle the Hawks, who won 40 games and finished fifth in the Eastern Conference last season, without planning ahead. Josh Smith is in the final year of his contract and will find a bunch of suitors for his combination of length and athleticism. Jeff Teague will become a restricted free agent this summer and the Hawks will likely retain Teague, whose presence improve the Hawks by 5.1 points per 100 possessions. The only franchise centerpiece that figures to stay long-term is 26-year-old Al Horford, whose contract expires in four seasons. Having cap space — the Hawks have $25.51 million committed next season, excluding options — will open several avenues in which Ferry can take.

Simplistically speaking, the Spurs and Hawks are taking different approaches to earn the same goal. San Antonio is banking on continuity to surpass the Heat, Thunder and Lakers. Atlanta, meanwhile, is abandoning continuity in favor for flexibility and hope.

It isn’t certain which way is better but you have to start somewhere.

Where to watch: The game will be carried on 1200 WOAI and 1350 in Spanish.

Injury report: Tiago Splitter (back spasms) was a full participant in Monday’s practice. He should be in uniform tonight.

Patty Mills (sprained right ankle) will miss the next two preseason games and potentially more.

Manu Ginobili may miss tonight’s game with a sore foot he suffered yesterday.