Apr 10, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs have almost reached the beginning of the 2015-16 NBA season, and the first month-plus of the year provides a favorable slate for a roster that is adapting.
For the first time in nearly two decades, none of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili will be the featured player. However, the sheer amount of talent on the Spurs should help them exit October and November with a respectable winning record.
In addition to highlighting the best matchup of the November (plus two October games), you’ll find a list of back-to-backs, nationally televised contests, the most underrated contest and the toughest stretch.
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Apr 6, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) posts up against San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
In 2014-15, the Spurs dealt with 21 back-to-backs. While that inordinate number drops to 17 this season, they’ll encounter three of them during the opening month.
First up is a road trip that includes a Sunday matinee against the Boston Celtics on Nov. 1, followed by a short jaunt to face the New York Knicks. Boston improved its frontcourt via free agency, and New York should have a healthy Carmelo Anthony as well as a couple new faces.
The second edition of back-to-backs is the toughest one, since San Antonio will challenge the New Orleans Pelicans (Nov. 20) and Memphis Grizzlies (Nov. 21). Both teams reached the postseason last year and are favorites to make a return trip.
Lastly, the Spurs will take on the Denver Nuggets (Nov. 27) before returning to Texas and hosting the Atlanta Hawks (Nov. 28). After a tough week of games before the back-to-back, San Antonio will attempt to avoid a letdown to close the month.
Next: You Are Looking Live
Nationally Televised Games
Oct 18, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (L) shares a laugh on the court with teammate LaMarcus Aldridge (R) during the first half against the Detroit Pistons at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The Spurs will be regulars on national television later in the season, boasting 30 games throughout the campaign on ESPN, TNT or NBATV.
However, unless you’re in the regional market or have a League Pass subscription, you won’t be able to watch much of the new-look roster right away.
ESPN will broadcast three outings, including the 2015-16 opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (Oct. 28), LaMarcus Aldridge’s return to Portland (Nov. 11) and the first clash with New Orleans (Nov. 20). San Antonio’s final contest of November—opposite the Chicago Bulls—will be available on NBATV.
Be sure to write those dates in your calendar.
Next: Could the Spurs Hit a Wall?
Most Underrated Game
Jan 13, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall shoots over San Antonio Spurs Patty Mills during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
How much will playing four of their opening five games on the road take out of the Spurs? The answer should come when they enter the nation’s capital on Nov. 4.
All-Star point guard John Wall leads a Washington Wizards team that could be good enough to beat anyone yet not consistent enough to topple lesser opponents. Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat highlight a roster that added Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley and former Spurs guard Gary Neal.
If San Antonio overlooks Washington, it could be a major mistake. The Wizards averaged 102.3 points at home compared to just 94.8 away from the Verizon Center.
Since the matchup doesn’t fall on either side of a back-to-back, Gregg Popovich will likely roll out the full roster. We’ll be watching how the team performs in the final outing of the short road trip.
Next: Unleash the Fury of the Southwest Division
Apr 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dunks over San Antonio Spurs forward Marco Belinelli (3) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Fortunately, Marco Belinelli won’t get dunked on. Unfortunately, Anthony Davis might posterize someone else and hand San Antonio its first loss during a stretch that includes three Southwest Division foes.
New Orleans hosts the Spurs on Nov. 20 before the Silver and Black returns home to battle Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies the next night. Then on Nov. 23, San Antonio welcomes a revamped Phoenix Suns team that bolstered its defense by adding Tyson Chandler.
The Dallas Mavericks—Chandler’s former team—are the final opponent of the brutal six-day span, which will define the Spurs’ early-season progress, or lack thereof.
Finishing 3-1 is a hopeful yet realistic expectation, especially since three games will be played in San Antonio. However, considering the talent each team possesses, a 1-3 record wouldn’t be a complete surprise.
Next: An MVP and His Elite Sidekick
Feb 9, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and forward Kevin Durant (35) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Washington is important. Portland means something to Aldridge. New Orleans, Memphis and Dallas are each reasonably important division games.
But nothing compares to a showdown against superstars.
Although Kevin Durant missed most of the 2014-15 season due to a foot injury, Russell Westbrook was a tiebreaker shy of carrying the Thunder into the playoffs—partly because he was unavailable for 14 games, too. The All-Pro talents are healthy and ready for a mini-revenge tour.
Tune that television to ESPN on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. ET. Otherwise, you’ll miss Aldridge’s San Antonio debut, Durant’s first appearance since mid-February and an all-around fantastic tilt.