National Basketball Association
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              === Spurs, Grizzlies renew rivalry in Alamo City ===
 (  -  The San  Antonio Spurs  begin their Western Conference
 championship  title defense on Wednesday night when they host familiar rivals,
 the Memphis Grizzlies.
 The Spurs swept the Grizzlies in last season's Conference Finals en route to a
 gut-wrenching,  heartbreaking,  soul-crushing defeat in  the NBA Finals to the
 Miami Heat.
 In  Game 6,  Ray  Allen chucked  in  a wild  three-pointer  with five  seconds
 remaining on the clock. The Heat prevailed in overtime, then won a hard-fought
 Game 7 for back-to-back NBA championships.
 The Spurs were gutted.
 "Suffice  it  to say,  I've thought  about it every  day," admitted head coach
 Gregg Popovich, speaking more than three months after the shot. "I'm wondering
 if it'll go away. I'm anxious for it to happen, but it hasn't happened yet."
 That  was on media day before training camp began in earnest. He and the Spurs
 have  worked hard to  prepare for the start of another season with Tim Duncan,
 Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili at the helm.
 Most  believe that  this season will be  a breakout one for Kawhi Leonard, who
 stepped  up  his scoring  and rebounding  in the Finals.  Leonard is a leading
 candidate for Most Improved Player.
 "Everybody's ready to go," Popovich said after practice Tuesday. "Preseason is
 over with and everybody on every team is anxious to play."
 The Spurs certainly figure to remain in the picture for the Western Conference
 championship and Memphis should be right there with them.
 After  the Spurs sweep,  Lionel Hollins was let go as head coach. Most reports
 indicated  that Hollins  did  not like  the analytics  approach  of the  front
 office, but he was replaced by longtime assistant, Dave Joerger.
 The  calling  card for both  Joerger and the  Grizzlies has been defense. Marc
 Gasol  won the  Defensive Player of the  Year award last season and Tony Allen
 received the most votes for the All-Defensive team.
 Gasol  is  a stud and  shares big-man  responsibilities with Zach Randolph, an
 All-Star last season. Mike Conley has blossomed as a point guard and the front
 office brass addressed a problem last season - depth.
 Memphis  traded  for Kosta Koufos,  who will back  up both Randolph and Gasol,
 signed Mike Miller for a long-range threat, and Joerger will figure out how to
 use  Ed Davis, who showed a ton of promise in Toronto before coming to Memphis
 in the Rudy Gay/Tayshaun Prince trade.
 "We  feel that one of our strengths this year is depth. We want to see guys do
 more  in less time.  Not to say guys don't play hard, but we want to keep them
 from getting slow," Joerger said.
 But  defense  is what takes the  Grizz deep the playoffs. Last season, Memphis
 led  the NBA  in points allowed (89.3) and finished third in opponents' field-
 goal percentage (.435).
 The  Southwest  Division foes  split  their  four regular-season  meetings  in
 2012-13. The Grizzlies have lost six in a row in Alamo City during the regular
 season, but did win in San Antonio during the 2010-11 playoffs.
 10/30 10:46:15 ET