With training camp nearly a month away, we continue our look at some of the top ten intriguing games for the upcoming 2016-17 season for the San Antonio Spurs.
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Are you a Spurs fan but don’t have access to a season ticket package? Do you want to see
in person, but cannot afford the inevitable price hikes that accompany the visiting Warriors and Cavaliers? Well here are ten, under the radar, potentially entertaining games to keep your eyes on:
Nov. 1st: Bobo’s Return.
It is well documented that Boris Diaw is usually the most interesting man in any NBA locker room in the league (quite possibly the world). As of now, he is documenting his trip with former NBA player and French National teammate, Ronny Turiauf, online–via Instagram. Two days ago, they were driving though the White Sands National Monument, and today, they posted a pic of their visit to the Petrifed Forest.
Judging from how popular he was with the fans and the team, you would think Diaw was a life long Spur (San Antonio acquired him during the 2013 Finals run). Not only he is a good rebounder and passer, but his reputation as a selfless teammate has followed him throughout his career.
This year he, Joe Johnson, and George Hill will provide the veteran leadership that Utah did not have last season. Acquiring these three players will be worth 3 to 4 close wins, a playoff berth, and a season of really good espresso–courtesy of Boris. Utah will be a fun team to watch this year.
Nov. 11th: The Gentle Giant of Motor City
Apr 24, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Cavs win 100-98. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Boban Marjanovic, another crowd favorite, was also a cap economics casualty for San Antonio. Detroit was able to steal him away for 21 million dollars. He and Aron Baynes, another former Spur, will backup Andre Drummond at the center position, so there is a chance he will get significant minutes against the Spurs thin front line.
Even if Boban does not play, Reggie Jackson will be running the point and dishing the ball to Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson; two athletic wings who can finish at the rim. With most of the team having already played a year under Stan Van Gundy, they will compete on a nightly basis. Don’t sleep on Detroit.
Dec.14th: Return of the Jedi
Apr 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens directs his team on the court during the first half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Christmas comes early for New England transplants,as Brad Stevens and company bring their blue-collar work ethic down to San Antonio.
Many people thought that all Boston needed to contend for the Eastern Conference title was another 3 point threat, a play making big man, and a ball handler to spell Isiah Thomas.
The Celtics whiffed on Kevin Durant (3 point threat and a playmaker), but hit on the All-Star big man Al Horford. Based on the strength of their defense alone, the C’s will be a hard to team to defeat by more than five baskets.
I foresee this game being an entertaining one. Plus, UT fans can welcome former Longhorns great Avery Bradley back to the region, and perhaps, even entice him to return to play ball in Texas (after he becomes a free agent in 2018).
Dec. 30th: “Dame Dolla” and The 50 cent Pieces
Apr 27, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (3) heads down court after a 3 point basket in the second half of game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The final game of the calendar year looks promising. Portland’s success last year was surprising–almost confounding, to the casual NBA observer.
Despite having zero All Star selections on their team (though some feel Damian Lillard deserved a nod over Kobe Bryant), the Trailblazers treated their fans to a great season, and an entertaining playoff run that ended against in six games to the eventual Western Conference champion, Golden State Warriors.
The backcourt alone, of C.J. McCollum and Lillard, is worth making a trip to the AT&T Center. Either player is capable of having a scorching hot shooting night, and finishing with 30 plus points.
Jan. 10th: The Greek Freak Takes The Keys
Apr 13, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks during the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the more intriguing teams out of the east. Many experts (wrongly) predicted them to follow up 2014-2015 their playoff campaign with at least a return to the post season.
They took a step back last season however, after signing Greg Monroe, and had problems manufacturing consistent offense. This off-season, Jason Kidd named Giannis Antetokounmpo the starting point guard–essentially giving Giannis a license to drive and keys to the family vehicle (probably a station wagon). Win or lose, they will be fascinating to watch.
Jan. 12th: Back to School
This game will probably be a blowout. The good news for Luke Walton is that he has a ton of talent on this Lakers team. The bad news is his best players, like D’Angelo Russell are extremely green. Luol Deng, a noted professional, is a great addition to the team.
He’ll be a good locker room presence for guys like Larry Nance, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle. This game will serve as a great instructional clinic for Walton and his young squad.
Local hoop nerds should take advantage of the opportunity to check out this team. Lakers fans always believe they are a superstar away from being contenders, and if they find a way to harvest their young talent, Los Angeles is 2-3 years away from this being a reality.
Jan. 19th: Nuggets of Wisdom
Apr 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends on a shot from Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
On paper, there is nothing particularly striking about the Denver Nuggets. I’d be shocked if they won more than 25 games, but having said that, they will be mildly competitive on their way to 50 plus losses. Will Barton strikes me as Gerald Green 2.0, and I think Emmanuel Mudiay will be better with a year’s worth of experience under his belt.
If they can get Mudiay some legitimate front court help, they’ll able to actually field a real team. By the time this game rolls around, Jamal Murray, their draft pick out of Kentucky, may even work himself into the playing rotation. Standing at 6’5″, anyone who watched the Pan-AM games a couple of summers ago, knows this Canadian kid can ball. This game will be a chance to get an early peek at the rookie point guard.
Jan. 31st: The Wrath of Russ
May 26, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) passes the ball against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter in game five of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
It is easy to write off the Thunder after losing Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. This is a mistake. Sure they have taken a step back, and will be the Utah Jazz of this year, but any game where Russell Westbrook is playing is potentially a dogfight.
There are still plenty of reasons to see the Thunder in person. Even without Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City presents problems with Steven Adams and Ene Kanter in the front court. Arvydis Sabonis’ son, Domantas might see some floor time, and Victor Oladipo will be a great backcourt mate for Westbrook.
Feb. 2nd: Puxatawny Philly and the Groundhog Day Game
Jun 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers number one overall draft pick Ben Simmons (R) is greeted by center Joel Embiid (L) during a press conference at the Philadelphia College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The 76ers are hoping to avoid any organizational deja vu they’ve experienced the past 3 seasons. With a team full of lottery picks, one wonders if this is the year they will finally give opponents some good run.
On February 2nd, the much heralded Ben Simmons rolls into town, along with Jahlil Okafur, Joel Embiid, and Nerlens Noel. Despite their suspect backcourt, Simmons may bring a sliver of daylight to a team that has been tunneling in the dark for so long.
Consider this season a success if they can manage to get Embiid (who was phenomenal in his one year at Kansas) through the season without any catastrophic (foot) injuries, and we may finally see what Noel is all about. Sometimes you can learn just about a team from watching their blowouts as you can from their close games.
March 4th: Tom Thibodeau’s Precocious Teen Wolves
Apr 9, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) dunks the ball in front of Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (8) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesotans aren’t the only ones excited about the Timberwolves’ upcoming season. With future stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns coming into their own last year, they are one of the emerging must watch “League Pass” teams.
Like the Lakers, there is a ton of young talent on this roster, but they are still learning how to win. If you encounter anyone willing to make a wager on the Timberwolves making the playoffs, do yourself a favor, and take them up on it. A 40 win season is a successful one for this franchise.
Zach Lavine, Shabazz Muhammed, and Kris Dunn are the three most intriguing players off the bench for the Wolves, but don’t buy a ticket to this game hoping to see Tyus Jones. Being a liability on the defensive end, he will have a tough time seeing the floor with Thibs coaching. This team is a point guard away from being a very exciting squad to watch. Stay tuned.