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The must-watch games of the 2023-24 Spurs season

The schedule is out, so let’s take a look at the potentially most entertaining matchups of the first year of the Wembanyama era.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The schedule is out. What’s your prediction for the Spurs’ record after the first 10 games?

Marilyn Dubinski: I tend to be an optimist, and maybe the Spurs surprise early like they did last year with their 5-2 start, but not knowing what this team or several others in that part of the schedule will look like makes this hard to answer. I’m going to go with 4-6, with predicted wins coming against the either the Mavs or Rockets to start, then the Raptors, Pacers and Timberwolves, but it could go any way in any of these games.

Mark Barrington: The first part of the season looks like a murderer’s row of competent veteran teams, and the young and inexperienced Spurs won’t be ready. Maybe they go 3-7, with possible wins over the Rockets, Knicks and Timberwolves.

Jesus Gomez: I can see the Spurs hitting their stride at some point in the season when they find the right lineups and rotations, but I feel like the start could be rough. Looking at the opponents, it feels like a 2-8 start seems very possible, with the wins coming against the Rockets and the Raptors at home. That seems acceptable. Anything more would be a nice bonus.

J.R. Wilco: At this time last year, Gomez asked the same question and I guessed that San Antonio would win about 25% of their games for the season — which works out to 20.5 games. So I’m quite pleased with my prognostication skills at the moment. In other words, I’m feeling lucky. With that luck I’ll say I expect them to get at least 30 games this year, which is more than a 10-point jump in their winning percentage; up to 36.6%. Over 10 games that’d be either 3-7 or 4-6. Given the tough schedule, I’d be happy with either of those starts.

What is the first must-watch Wembanyama matchup of the season?

Dubinski: Besides the season-opener? This might be more on a personal level, but I’m ready for Wemby vs. the Rockets in game 2. Their fans have been so horrible towards him since the Spurs won the lottery, and Jabari Smith’s big Summer League only added to their ridiculous narrative that Wemby will be a bust, so I’m ready to hush them up early. After that, vs. Chet Holmgren and the Thunder on TNT in game 11 will be an early look a the Rookie of the Year race.

Barrington: It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up against the twin towers lineup of KAT and Gobert in the first in-season tournament game on November 10. I don’t know how Gobert will handle a player that’s both longer and more mobile than him, and how KAT will deal with a defender that can keep up with him on the perimeter and won’t give him room to operate.

Gomez: Assuming Zion Williamson is healthy, the Dec. 1 game against the Pelicans will be a must-watch. Will Wembanyama’s length be enough to counter Zion’s strength and athleticism? If it is, Victor will put to rest a lot of the concerns about how much of an issue his skinny physique actually is, but if he struggles, the critics will have a field day. We’ll get a preview of how that matchup could go when the Spurs face the Knicks and Julius Randle on Nov. 8, but Zion will provide the true test.

Wilco: I’m going with the Halloween matchup in game 4 against Phoenix and Kevin Durant. Now there’s no expectation that a rookie is going to give KD trouble, so any play that Wemby wins against him is going to be viewed as a sneak peek into the future. Also, there’s an immediate rematch two days later so we can see how fast VW learns if he’s able to do better against Kevin in the very next game.

If you could get front-row tickets to any one game next season, which one would you pick?

Dubinski: I’ve never sat front row, nor have I ever desired to. In fact, I’ve always been one who is just as happy watching from my couch as being at the game in person. With that in mind, the point of sitting front row for me would be to absorb the moment, so I would go with the season opener against Dallas. Wemby’s debut should have an aura about it that will be hard to match the rest of the season, not to mention it should be a good game. (Although when/if the Spurs return to the finals and are playing a potential championship-winner at home, anyone with front-row tickets can feel free to send them to me. I’d be all over that.)

Barrington: Even better than the front row area seats are the ones just behind where the team sits, where you can watch and even hear some of the interaction between coaches and players. You can learn so much about basketball just by observing what the coaches tell to the players. I had the privilege of doing that in Summer League a few times, and that has to be the best seats in the house. I think I’d pick the Minnesota Timberwolves game again, because I think that they present a unique challenge that could provide an interesting opportunity for some unconventional strategies. But other than that, I’d probably pick a Lakers game, because I’ve never seen Lebron play live, and I’d like to have a chance to see him close up while he’s still a dominant player. And Austin Reaves is pretty good, too.

Gomez: I’d take some front-row tickets for the Nov. 14 game against the Thunder. It’s tempting to pick a game featuring some of the all-time greats who are on the tail end of their career, but the game against OKC could be a preview of some epic battles between the two teams, assuming all the young pieces progress as expected. If Wembanyama and Holgrem pan out, the Spurs and the Thunder could be two of the dominant forces in the West for a decade soon and it would be fun to be there before every matchup is pressure-filled.

Wilco: How about either 11/20 or 11/22 when the Clippers come to town and provide an opportunity to see Wemby block one of Kawhi’s threes?