NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, October 29th (All times eastern)
Phoenix Suns (0-0) at San Antonio Spurs (0-0), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The veteran-laden San Antonio Spurs will open the 2008-09 season tonight against the Phoenix Suns at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio enjoyed another successful campaign last year despite losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. It has reached the playoffs for the past 11 years thanks to the guidance and tutelage of head coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich has led the Spurs to four NBA titles in his 12 seasons as head coach and the team ended 56-26 in 2007-08.
All-Star center Tim Duncan will lead the Spurs once again after averaging 19.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 78 games last season. Duncan will begin his 12th season in the league. Point guard Tony Parker is the one of the youngest on the squad and posted 18.8 points and 6.0 assists per contest in 2007-08. In bad news for San Antonio, top bench player Manu Ginobili underwent surgery on his left ankle in September and is expected to be sidelined until December. Ginobili, who went down in the 2008 Beijing Games for Argentina, notched 19.5 points, 4.8 boards and 4.5 assists last season.
Popovich still has Michael Finley, defensive mastermind Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto to round out the starting five. With no Brent Barry or Robert Horry on the roster, the Spurs added Roger Mason Jr. for support.
Phoenix, meanwhile, will kick off the Terry Porter era on Wednesday. Porter is a defensive-minded coach who spent the past two seasons as an assistant molding Detroit into a two-dimensional threat. The Pistons led the league in scoring defense at 90.1 points per game in 2007-08.
Porter will now try to instill a stronger approach on defense after the Suns allowed 105.0 ppg in 2007-08, good enough for 25th in the NBA. Former head coach Mike D'Antoni is now in New York trying to rebuild the Knicks with his high-tempo style of play. The Suns were third in the NBA with 110.1 points per game last season under D'Antoni and went 55-27 before losing to the Spurs in five games in the opening round of the postseason.
Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash is back for another year with the Suns and averaged 16.9 points and 11.1 assists last season. He also finished second in three-point percentage at 47.0 and fifth in free throws at 90.6 percent.
Future Hall of Fame center and four-time NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal will kick off his first full season in Phoenix. The big man was acquired from the Miami Heat last season and posted 12.9 points and 10.6 boards in 28 contests with the Suns. O'Neal should have a better season under Porter's new scheme instead of having to run the floor.
Forward Amare Stoudemire is at full strength and posted 25.2 points and 9.1 rebounds in 2007-08. His numbers have improved since O'Neal joined the team. Stoudemire (finger) is probable for Wednesday.
Porter will also start Matt Barnes and Raja Bell, while Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and first-round draft pick Robin Lopez will come off the bench.
The Suns won three of four matchups with San Antonio last year and are 4-2 in the past six encounters. Phoenix has won two in a row at the AT&T Center.
10/29 10:42:23 ET