Tonight ushers in a brand new season for the San Antonio Spurs and optimism is still aplenty for the plethora of faithful fans who hope to see their favorite franchise regain its once-glorious form and rejoin the playoff picture after a disappointing year.
In addition to the uncertainty surrounding lineups and rotations, San Antonio must cope with the complications that are sure to come with playing a shortened schedule outside of a bubble amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Derrick White remains out indefinitely as he recovers from offseason toe surgery, and head coach Gregg Popovich must figure out how to integrate an aging LaMarcus Aldridge into a fast-paced formula that found success during the NBA restart.
Excluding the draft additions of Devin Vassell and Tre Jones, the Spurs have the benefit of continuity. However, shaking up the roster and trading away veterans could concretely define the direction PATFO are committed to pursuing.
But before we delve too deeply into the minutiae of an unfamiliar 72-game voyage that lies ahead, let’s first explore the initial ten matchups awaiting San Antonio as they attempt to kick off their 2020-2021 campaign on a positive note.
Dec 23: San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs are 21-2 in season openers with head coach Gregg Popovich operating as the lead play-caller, and the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies will be without several key pieces on Wednesday night.
While Justice Winslow, Xavier Tillman, Jontay Porter, and Jaren Jackson won’t be available for this divisional matchup, Derrick White is the only regular rotation player unavailable to San Antonio.
Ja Morant took home Rookie of the Year honors a season ago, and he’ll look to continue his meteoric rise to superstardom in year two. Don’t be surprised if he singlehandedly makes this one a close contest.
Dec 26: San Antonio Spurs vs. Toronto Raptors
The Silver and Black went 10-22 on the road last season, but they’ll have a strange opportunity to play in mostly empty arenas without jeers from a hostile crowd due to coronavirus protocols.
Not only will these circumstances aid the Spurs’ cause away from the AT&T Center, but their first away game will come against a drastically altered Raptors team the league relocated to Tampa Bay.
Regardless, Toronto owns a talented roster with a championship pedigree led by Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and head coach Nick Nurse, so San Antonio must show up prepared to put up a fight.
Dec 27: San Antonio Spurs @ New Orleans Pelicans
San Antonio will have the pleasure of squaring off against the new-look Pelicans and Zion Williamson in their first SEGABABA of the season. New Orleans retooled, but did they any better?
The additions of Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and first-round rookie Kira Lewis Jr. are individually compelling, though they don’t make a ton of sense for the present makeup of this squad.
Spacing issues, massive turnover, and inexperience suggest the Spurs have the upper hand. However, as is the case with almost every game on their schedule, San Antonio can’t write any opponent off.
Dec 30: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli walking in free agency might have been the most notable news for San Antonio this offseason. And this addition by subtraction should help radically improve a bottom ten defense.
While the Spurs re-signed in-house free agents, the Lakers made monumental moves that included bringing 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell and his runner-up Dennis Schroeder to Los Angeles.
Despite signs of rust and a lack of chemistry, LeBron and crew nearly overcame a 22-point deficit to defeat the Clippers on opening night. San Antonio isn’t as talented, and they can’t afford to miss a beat.
Jan 1: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers
This outing will be our first look at the NBA’s experiment with in-season series to cut down on travel during the pandemic. Unfortunately for the Spurs, it comes against the reigning champs.
Everything said in the previous paragraphs applies to this contest, and it’s worth mentioning San Antonio has virtually no answer for containing All-NBA big man Anthony Davis.
Back-to-back home games would usually be a welcomed occasion for the Spurs, but performing in an unoccupied stadium versus a team that won the title on a neutral site two months ago doesn’t feel advantageous.
Jan 3: San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
Although an early-calendar outing versus the Jazz brings yet another legitimate playoff contender to Alamo City, the run-and-gun Spurs are well equipped to hold Utah in check.
The Silver and Black downed this interconference foe three times in four tries last year, and they might have gone undefeated when facing Utah if Pop hadn’t waved the white flag in the final game of the bubble.
Between Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell, San Antonio has the perimeter defenders necessary to disrupt Donovan Mitchell and the opposing offense.
Jan 5: San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Clippers
Numerous national media pundits have proclaimed the Los Angeles Lakers as frontrunners of the Western Conference, but don’t count out the Clippers when discussing potential title favorites.
Despite losing Montrezl Harrell to their next-door neighbors and moving on from Doc Rivers this offseason, they brought Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard, and new head coach Tyronn Lue aboard.
Postseason choking aside, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George remain one of the best one-two punches in the league. And this could quickly become a blowout if the Spurs let their guard down.
Jan 7: San Antonio Spurs @ Los Angeles Lakers
There isn’t much else to say about the Lakers and Spurs meetings during the regular season, so let’s cover a few of the other noteworthy narratives for Los Angeles.
Second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker was a preseason revelation, Kyle Kuzma signed a three-year $40M extension, and former All-Star Marc Gasol joined the Purple and Gold.
The third tilt between San Antonio and Los Angeles will happen at the Staples Center, which could be troubling for the good guys if fans are allowed back into arenas by this date.
Jan 9: San Antonio Spurs @ Minnesota Timberwolves
The Spurs went winless when they faced the Timberwolves in 2019-2020, but Minnesota is one of the few teams I genuinely expect to be outright worse than the Silver and Black this season.
Though Karl-Anthony Towns is among the most gifted players in the NBA, former General Manager Scott Layden was never able to surround the superstar center with a suitable supporting cast.
After adding Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft, KAT is rapidly running out of excuses. D’Angelo Russell added an exciting dynamic last season, but can they translate talent into wins?
Jan 10: San Antonio Spurs @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Back-to-backs traditionally favor younger teams, and while the Spurs are no longer the senior citizens of the NBA, the Timberwolves lay claim to the youngest roster in the league this season (Average Age 23.9).
Although this is the youngest club Pop has ever coached (Average Age 25.9), they still project to rely heavily on veterans. LaMarcus, DeMar, Rudy, and Patty are all on the wrong side of 30, and it’s tough to produce on tired legs.
Given their rotational depth, San Antonio should be competitive throughout this contest. However, it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see them flounder as they approach the finish line.