Finally, it's here folks. After a long off-season, after a long time to think about what went wrong in the 2013 Finals, it's time to turn a new leaf. After their intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday, the Spurs begin their first official game action of the new season versus a team out of the Euroleague: CSKA Moscow.
The Spurs have some unknowns coming out of training camp, and would like to begin to answer some questions as they move through the preseason. Maybe the most important of those storylines is how much Kawhi Leonard has improved over the offseason. Of course, this question will be answered in full over the course of the regular season, but in the preseason we should get a preview of what's to come from Leonard. He impressed many in the Finals with his ability to always make a play when San Antonio needed it. He had a great series, and flashed his potential all over the court while handling the ball and being the Spurs' best option for defending LeBron James. Against CSKA, I'm curious to see him handle the ball and initiate the offense. Kawhi becoming more of a focal point offensively will be a lasting theme for the season, and that should be on display Wednesday night.
Another thing to watch will be the play of Cory Joseph. The former first round pick came on at the end of last season as the Spurs' best option to back up Tony Parker, but CJ's production was never a sure thing. The Spurs have a team option on Joseph's contract at the end of the year, and Joseph will have to continue to improve if he wants PATFO to exercise it. His solid play in this year's Las Vegas Summer League was an encouraging sign for Joseph, but the strength of Summer League competition isn't high enough to be a good measure of a play. He'll get a large portion of minutes in the preseason, so we'll see whether he can solidify that backup poing guard position as his own.
The last thing to look for is how the Spurs utilize the final roster spot. As of right now, they have 14 players guaranteed to have a roster spot, one off from the maximum 15 available. In seasons past, the Spurs have usually chosen to leave that final roster spot open for flexibility in trades, or to claim someone off waivers. But they have a good reason to use that final spot right now -- there's no depth at the small forward position after Kawhi Leonard. Two players that could add depth at that position are Sam Young and Corey Maggette. Young was with the Indiana Pacers last year. He's a player with decent athletic potential as a defender, and is familiar with former Pacers assistant coach Jim Boylen, who is now Coach Pop's top assistant. Maggette was with the Detroit Pistons last year, and while he didn't play much last year, he has long been coveted by the Spurs organization. He's a player that has a knack for racking up points, and is well-respected in the locker-room. A dark-horse candidate for the final roster spot has emerged in rookie guard Myck Kabongo, who was a top recruit in high school but ran into problems with the NCAA while at Texas. He's a great athlete, and is known for being a tenacious on-ball defender. Because of the Spurs' backcourt depth, it's unlikely that he'll make the team, but he should be fun to watch.
CSKA Moscow provides an adequate opponent, as they made it to the Euroleague Final Four in their past two seasons and topped the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime on Monday, 108-106. They are lead by one of the finest players in Europe, Milos Teodosic. At 26, Teodosic is already an accomplished international player, claiming a Euroleague MVP and first-team nod in 2010. He also had second-team nods in 2012 and 2013. A dynamic scorer, he averaged 12.6 points per game last year in about 29 minutes per game last year, which is fantastic in a slowed-down league, where a more balanced team attack is emphasized. He is sure to give the Spurs guards a tough time. CSKA also boasts a roster with NBA pedigree, with vets Nenad Kristic, Sonny Weems, Victor Khryapa, and Jeremy Pargo getting minutes. This team is nothing to sleep on, especially in a game where Tim Duncan and Tony Parker aren't likely to get a lot of minutes.
(For more information on CSKA Moscow, here is their Euroleague.net page)
Game Prediction: Spurs by 5.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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