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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, November 3rd (All times eastern)

Sacramento Kings (0-1) at San Antonio Spurs (0-0), 8:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The San Antonio Spurs open their 2004-05 season with high expectations, as they kick off the campaign against the Sacramento Kings at the SBC Center.

The Spurs won 57 games last season, but had their reign as champions ended in the conference semifinals when Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated them in six contests.

The loss to the Lakers, who may have shifted the power of the Western Conference back to San Antonio when they traded O'Neal to the Miami Heat, gave the Spurs a lot to think about in the offseason.

San Antonio's front office had some big decisions to make, as defensive stopper Bruce Bowen, guard Manu Ginobili and forwards Robert Horry and Hedo Turkoglu were all free agents.

Bowen, Horry and Ginobili all re-signed with the Spurs, while Turkoglu decided to take his game to Orlando. San Antonio went out on the open market and signed free agents Brent Barry, who can play both guard positions, and forwards Linton Johnson and Tony Massenburg. Barry gives San Antonio a veteran who plays smart basketball, while Massenburg and Johnson add depth to the frontcourt.

However, the team's biggest move of the offseason came just this past week when they rewarded 22-year-old point guard Tony Parker with a six-year extension reportedly worth $66 million. Parker recorded a team-best 5.5 assists per contests last season and was second on the club in scoring at 14.7 points per game.

Two-time MVP Tim Duncan, though, is still the go-to guy, as he had another outstanding season for the Spurs in 2003-04, as he averaged a team-high 22.4 points in 69 games.

Head coach Gregg Popovich is back. He has guided the Spurs to a pair of NBA championships during his tenure. Popovich was named the 2003 NBA Coach of the Year and has led San Antonio to the NBA's best regular season record three times (1998-99, 2000-01, 2002-03). His philosophy will remain the same once again this year, as he will stress defense and will make sure that the offense revolves around Duncan.

This year, though, the Spurs will be playing in arguably the toughest division in the NBA after moving from the Midwest to the Southwest because of the league's realignment. They are grouped with Dallas, Houston, Memphis and New Orleans -- teams that combined for a winning percentage of .598 (245-165) last season.

Since moving from the ABA to the NBA the Spurs have gone 18-10 (.643) on Opening Night. Of the wins, 12 have come at home, while only four of the losses have come in their arena. The Spurs have been even more impressive in openers since Tim Duncan joined the organization. During the Duncan era San Antonio is undefeated on opening night, going 7-0 since his 1997-98 rookie campaign.

Sacramento, meanwhile, got its campaign off to a sour start on Tuesday, as they dropped a 107-98 decision to the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.

Brad Miller netted 24 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Kings, who took the court for the first time since losing to the Timberwolves in the Western Conference semifinals last season. Sacramento, which fell for the first time in a season-opener in six years, also received 21 points and 10 rebounds from Chris Webber.

The Kings never led and trailed by as many as 19 points, but were still in the game in the final minute. Miller capped off a five-point spurt on a three- point play to cut the Dallas advantage to 103-98 with 58.7 seconds remaining.

However, Sacramento failed to score again and Nowitzki sealed the victory courtesy of two free throws that put the Mavericks ahead, 105-98, with just 15.5 seconds left to play.

The Kings, who played without starting guard Doug Christie due to a foot injury, were outshot, 49 percent to 41 percent from the field. Sacramento really struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 3-of-17 from three-point range and turned the ball over 17 times.

Sacramento split its four matchups with the Spurs last season, but has lost five of seven and six of the last nine meetings. The Kings have also dropped two of their last three in San Antonio.

11/03 13:01:25 ET


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