NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, October 28th (All times Eastern)
Dallas Mavericks (0-0) at San Antonio Spurs (0-0), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Antonio Spurs will begin defense of their NBA title on Tuesday night when they kick off the 2014-15 campaign with a home matchup against bitter rivals, the Dallas Mavericks.
The Spurs will receive their championship rings in a pre-game ceremony and, for the fifth time in franchise history, San Antonio will raise a title banner.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said All-Star guard Tony Parker. "At the same time, it's a tough night because you know you're happy and you get a ring, but you have to focus on the game. It is difficult."
The Spurs are 4-0 in the previous games they received their championship rings.
The Spurs cruised to a fifth title in the Tim Duncan/Gregg Popovich era in June, dismantling the Miami Heat in more ways than one. San Antonio cruised to a five-game NBA Finals victory, and LeBron James bolted South Beach, thus ending the Big Three incarnation in Miami.
And, basically, the Spurs returned everyone from that title roster. Not everyone will play in the season-opener. Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP, will miss the game with a right eye infection, Tiago Splitter has a calf injury, and Patty Mills will miss the first few months after shoulder surgery.
But Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pop are back. The Spurs' only additions this offseason were first-round pick Kyle Anderson and Becky Hammond, the first female assistant coach to start a season in the NBA.
San Antonio, despite its great record in ring games, will need all hands on deck Tuesday night. The Spurs open with their inter-state rivals, a Mavericks team that gave them their most difficult challenge last postseason.
Dallas took the Spurs to seven games, a feat the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Heat all failed to reach. San Antonio gained confidence from its thrilling first-round escape.
"Game 7 was definitely a big one win for us, got us focused," said Parker. "Then, we started rolling after that. There's a fine line between winning and losing."
The Mavericks improved this offseason with the signings of Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson, coupled with the trade for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Chandler returns after anchoring the defense that helped Dallas win the NBA title in 2011.
However, the Mavericks are still led by Dirk Nowitzki, a 12-time All-Star. The future Hall of Famer returned to the midseason classic last season, and, while excited to have his fellow big man back in Big D, Nowitzki cautioned about returning to the past.
"We've got a good and deep team now, and we just want to make our own destiny," Nowitzki said. "We can't always live in 2010-11. That was a great year for us, but this is almost a completely new team. But, you know, we're very deep. We've got a lot of scorers on this team and we've got a lot of playmakers. It's fun to play that way, and offensively we're just sharing the ball. Hopefully, we can keep it going."
The Mavs improved, but lost several solid veterans like Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. With Nowitzki at the helm, Monta Ellis manning a wing and head coach Rick Carlisle pacing the sidelines, the Mavs should be in the thick of things come playoff time.
Despite the epic seven-game Western Conference semifinal series, the Spurs have owned the Mavericks in the regular season. San Antonio has taken nine straight regular-season meetings, including seven consecutive in the AT&T Center.
10/28 10:22:00 ET