Tim Duncan is ready to make another run at a fifth championship.
Many of the anticipated matchups are a direct result of offseason transactions because they provide the first head-to-head battle between the Spurs and an ex-player's new home.
Last season, San Antonio totaled 58 wins—the second-most in the Western Conference. With most of the key contributors returning for the 2013-14 campaign, Gregg Popovich can orchestrate yet another 50-win season and lead a championship-caliber team into the playoffs.
But before the postseason arrives, the Spurs must first make it through some tough games on the schedule.
Note: All game times and TV listings found on NBA.com.
Kawhi Leonard is a promising young talent.
San Antonio's second game of the season takes place at the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers are the host team. Including playoffs, the Spurs took down Los Angeles in six of seven meetings last year but the Lakers were missing a notable player during four of the games.
Kobe Bryant is recovering from his late-season Achilles injury that caused him to miss the postseason, and it was questionable if he would return for the 2013-14 season opener. Bryant, however, recently told reporters (h/t NBA Hang Time Blog) that he has "shattered" the expected recovery time from the surgery.
Additionally, NBA fanatics are eager to see how the Bryant and Gasol version of the Lakers will gel and the Spurs get a chance to smack around LA early in the first week of regular-season games.
After opening the season against Memphis, San Antonio has its first nationally televised game of the year (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. EST), and many Spurs' fans will be able to see Marco Belinelli for the first time.
Prediction: San Antonio dominates a Lakers squad that, very early in the season, is searching for the best rotation. The Spurs win the game by double digits before heading north to face the Portland Trail Blazers the following night.
Imagine this, but picture Dwight in a Rockets' uniform.
San Antonio took three of four games against Houston in 2012-13 including both meetings at home. In fact, the AT&T Center has been quite friendly to the Spurs as the team has a seven-game home winning streak over the Rockets.
Tim Duncan continues to gracefully age, but "he has to be on the decline" sometime soon, so an early-season battle in the paint with Howard and Omer Asik will give a glimpse of Duncan's 2013-14 effectiveness.
Prediction: The Spurs stretch their home winning-streak against Houston to eight but not without a fight from James Harden in the late moments. Duncan remains defiant, proves his doubters wrong once again and tallies a typical 20-point, 12-rebound game.
Thompson, Bogut and Curry will be even better next season.
The Golden State Warriors hosted three games of the 2013 playoff series between the teams, and San Antonio had its share of fits when surrounded by the loud, yellowed-out fans in Oracle Arena. San Antonio survived the tests that Golden State issued during the conference semifinals, but the Dubs improved their roster this offseason.
With the addition of lockdown defender Andre Iguodala, the second matchup—but first in Oakland—between Golden State and the Spurs is a very underrated game. Iguodala thought the Warriors were really close to being a special team last year and, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), he hopes to be the missing piece.
A Spurs win rides on the shoulders of Tony Parker, who must lead his team into a spirited building, though that is not something unfamiliar to him. The Spurs were dominated on the glass throughout the playoff series, so if San Antonio settles for rushed shots, December 19 could be a long day.
Prediction: Parker keeps the Spurs under control for most the contest, but Golden State and its raucous crowd takes this home game by a single-digit margin. Of course, San Antonio took the first matchup between the teams, so the result is not very surprising.
TV Note: Catch this game on TNT at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Parker made 2012-13 one of the best seasons of his career.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
The NBA finally decided a Christmas Day present would be suitable for the league-leading gift-givers...err, assists per game leaders. The NBA league office made the schedule, checked it twice and San Antonio-ho-ho knows that Houston, is coming, to town!
Houston visited the AT&T Center on November 30 (*and suffered a loss, see slide 3), so Harden, Howard and Chandler Parsons (Brown)...Parson Brown...I get in the Christmas spirit. I'm sorry. Time to get serious.
Howard and Omer Asik should be comfortable in the Rockets' rotation by late December, so this game will show if Tiago Splitter is better prepared to perform against a team with two dependable post players.
While solving chemistry issues surely is not an overnight process, the Rockets will have had two months to adapt to Howard's playing style. Otherwise, San Antonio certainly will expose Houston's weaknesses when given the chance.
Prediction: Popovich has his team ready for the national spotlight, San Antonio takes down Houston in convincing fashion, and the home winning streak reaches nine games.
TV Note: This game is available on ABC at 7:00 p.m. EST.
James, Parker and Leonard made the 2013 NBA Finals a great one.
The Spurs travel to Miami—not South Beach—for the first contest between the two teams since Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.
Need I say more?
Call it a chance for revenge, call it a shot at payback, or simply call it a matchup between two great teams showcasing a plethora of great players. Duncan and Parker face off with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on a Sunday afternoon game (ABC, 12:00 p.m. EST).
No, really, what else is there to say?
Prediction: LeBron does things only LeBron can do, Parker leads San Antonio throughout the game, and the NBA Finals rematch undergoes another battle to the final buzzer. But, unfortunately for the Spurs, the final score is again weighted in favor of the Heat.
The Spurs have not faced Derrick Rose since February 2012.
Bad jokes aside, I can only hope Derrick Rose is back for this game. San Antonio handed the Bulls 14- and 18-point losses, respectively, in their two meetings last season, and a Chicago team with a healthy star would provide a great test for the Spurs' defense.
That is, unless Pop rests his squad.
This matchup against Chicago will be the fifth game for San Antonio in just eight days. Opponents during this brutal stretch include Oklahoma City, (at) Atlanta, (at) Miami and (at) Houston.
But, if the Spurs' starters are on the floor, this nationally televised game (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. EST) will be highlighted by many battles between a prolific playmaker—Rose—and a great defender—Leonard.
Throughout the Finals, Kawhi repeatedly pushed LeBron James to the limit, but the assignment on Rose brings its own fresh dynamic. Leonard was certainly a solid defender as a rookie, but this will be his first crack at Rose in nearly two years.
Bonus: This will be Marco Belinelli's first game against his former team.
Prediction: Rose is his normal playmaking self, but Leonard limits the damage, and a tired San Antonio team manages to hold off a fourth-quarter Chicago comeback. The Spurs finish the torturous stretch of games at 3-2.
San Antonio took two of three home games against Miami during the finals.
Beginning February 19, the Spurs encounter a rather underwhelming slate of games against Portland, Phoenix, Detroit, Charlotte, Dallas and Cleveland before the Heat stroll into San Antonio on March 6.
A big question revolving around this contest, at least in my mind, is will the Spurs be ready for this matchup? Popovich's team will certainly be rested as he will likely use one or two of the aforementioned games to sit Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili and maybe even Leonard.
As for the opponents, Miami will face the Rockets on March 4, so the Heat will already be mentally prepared to face another one of the league's best.
Then again, the Spurs were supposed to be rusty following a nine-day layoff before Game 1 of the Finals, but San Antonio took that matchup. So does a relatively weak schedule even matter?
Either way, Miami will be ready to play, and the Spurs must match the intensity of the Heat.
Prediction: San Antonio comes out flat in the first quarter and keeps the game close, but Miami proves to be a few points better once again.
TV Note: TNT will carry this game at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Westbrook always provides a test for the Spurs.
San Antonio and the Oklahoma City Thunder were separated by just two wins last season, so the April 3 tilt will likely play a role in deciding official playoff seeding.
Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka will not only provide a tough matchup for San Antonio, but this contest is a great benchmark game for the Spurs heading into the postseason. After playing Golden State the previous night, San Antonio's stamina will be tested by OKC's high-powered offensive attack.
The Western Conference rivals split four 2012-13 meetings, and the home team won each game. The Spurs will have already had their two home games against Oklahoma City, so Duncan and Parker must prove they can carry San Antonio to an important road victory.
Prediction: The Thunder, aided by their rowdy fanbase, lead for most of the game before the Spurs even the score in the fourth quarter. Durant, however, takes over the final minutes and leads his OKC team to a nail-biting win.
TV Note: This game can be found on TNT at 7:00 p.m. EST.