The San Antonio Spurs keep avoiding the inevitable. Seemingly over the hill, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili helped them advance to the NBA Finals last season to keep a dynasty alive, but after falling in dramatic fashion to the Miami Heat, the vulnerabilities -- and sense that the end is near -- became the storyline.
Can San Antonio compete with the NBA's elite in 2013-14? Games against the Heat, Rockets, Thunder, Pacers and Grizzlies will tell the tale.
Five games to watch
Nov. 22 at Memphis -- The Spurs' stiffest Western Conference opponent from last postseason will play them twice early on in 2013-14 with the second meeting being aired on ESPN. More than three weeks into the season, the Grizzlies will give San Antonio a better sense of what first-year head coach Dave Joerger's squad will look like than their first encounter, which opens the two teams' schedules.
Dec. 25 vs. Rockets -- It's a Texas thing, but it's also a battle between the established and the new kids on the block. Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets visit San Antonio hoping to make a statement against an aging Spurs team on Christmas.
Jan. 22 vs. Thunder -- When talking Western Conference favorites, the Thunder and the Spurs are the two safest choices. That's because fans and analysts know what to expect from each team -- whereas the Clippers, Grizzlies, Rockets and Warriors all have significant changes from a year ago.
Jan. 26 at Miami -- A rematch of the NBA Finals goes down this Sunday afternoon on ABC, and there's not a whole lot that has changed for either team since the playoffs. San Antonio's roster is nearly identical, and the Heat of course won't deviate from a plan after winning two titles in a row.
March 31 at Indiana -- Maybe it's not made for TV entertainment, but a Spurs-Pacers meeting means a night in heaven for basketball purists. It might not be pretty, but it'll be a game with unquestioned effort, smart players across the board and two winning cultures built in small media markets.
San Antonio plays the Nets on New Year's Eve and then has outings against the Knicks, Clippers, Grizzlies and Mavericks.
Another tough stretch comes just before the rodeo road trip. From Jan. 22 to Jan. 29, the Spurs play Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Chicago.
And from March 26 through April 10, the Spurs face a difficult stretch run starting with two games against the Nuggets before matchups with New Orleans, Indiana, Golden State, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Dallas.
Could a nine-game road trip be San Antonio's most successful part of its schedule? The annual road trip -- the longest in the NBA -- caused by the rodeo booting the Spurs from the AT&T Center has actually been a marker of success in the last few years. In 2011-12, San Antonio went 8-1 and last season it only lost two of the nine games.
The Spurs have tough games against Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Clippers on the 2014 rodeo tour, which spans Feb. 3 through Feb. 21, but they fill out the schedule against the Pelicans, Wizards, Bobcats, Pistons, Celtics, Blazers and Suns.
Important schedule facts
Season opener: Oct. 30 at home vs. Grizzlies
Longest road trip: Nine games (Feb. 3-21)
Longest homestand: Four games (Dec. 29-Jan. 4, Jan. 15-22)
|Memphis||Wednesday, October 30 2013||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Los Angeles Lakers||Friday, November 01 2013||10:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Portland||Saturday, November 02 2013||10:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Denver||Tuesday, November 05 2013||9:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Phoenix||Wednesday, November 06 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Golden State||Friday, November 08 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ New York||Sunday, November 10 2013||12:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Philadelphia||Monday, November 11 2013||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Washington||Wednesday, November 13 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Utah||Friday, November 15 2013||9:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Boston||Wednesday, November 20 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Memphis||Friday, November 22 2013||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Cleveland||Saturday, November 23 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|New Orleans||Monday, November 25 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Oklahoma City||Wednesday, November 27 2013||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Orlando||Friday, November 29 2013||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Houston||Saturday, November 30 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Atlanta||Monday, December 02 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Minnesota||Wednesday, December 04 2013||9:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Indiana||Saturday, December 07 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Toronto||Tuesday, December 10 2013||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Milwaukee||Wednesday, December 11 2013||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Minnesota||Friday, December 13 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Utah||Saturday, December 14 2013||9:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Los Angeles Clippers||Monday, December 16 2013||10:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Phoenix||Wednesday, December 18 2013||9:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Golden State||Thursday, December 19 2013||10:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Oklahoma City||Saturday, December 21 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Toronto||Monday, December 23 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Houston||Wednesday, December 25 2013||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Dallas||Thursday, December 26 2013||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Sacramento||Sunday, December 29 2013||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Brooklyn||Tuesday, December 31 2013||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|New York||Thursday, January 02 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Los Angeles Clippers||Saturday, January 04 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Memphis||Tuesday, January 07 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Dallas||Wednesday, January 08 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Minnesota||Sunday, January 12 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ New Orleans||Monday, January 13 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Utah||Wednesday, January 15 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Portland||Friday, January 17 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Milwaukee||Sunday, January 19 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Oklahoma City||Wednesday, January 22 2014||9:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Atlanta||Friday, January 24 2014||7:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Miami||Sunday, January 26 2014||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Houston||Tuesday, January 28 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Chicago||Wednesday, January 29 2014||9:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Sacramento||Saturday, February 01 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ New Orleans||Monday, February 03 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Washington||Wednesday, February 05 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Brooklyn||Thursday, February 06 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Charlotte||Saturday, February 08 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Detroit||Monday, February 10 2014||7:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Boston||Wednesday, February 12 2014||7:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Los Angeles Clippers||Tuesday, February 18 2014||10:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Portland||Wednesday, February 19 2014||10:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Phoenix||Friday, February 21 2014||9:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Detroit||Wednesday, February 26 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Charlotte||Friday, February 28 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|Dallas||Sunday, March 02 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Cleveland||Tuesday, March 04 2014||7:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Miami||Thursday, March 06 2014||8:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Orlando||Saturday, March 08 2014||8:30 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Chicago||Tuesday, March 11 2014||8:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|Portland||Wednesday, March 12 2014||9:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Friday, March 14 2014||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|Utah||Sunday, March 16 2014||7:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Los Angeles Lakers||Wednesday, March 19 2014||10:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Sacramento||Friday, March 21 2014||10:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Golden State||Saturday, March 22 2014||10:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|Philadelphia||Monday, March 24 2014||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|Denver||Wednesday, March 26 2014||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Denver||Friday, March 28 2014||9:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|New Orleans||Saturday, March 29 2014||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Indiana||Monday, March 31 2014||7:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|Golden State||Wednesday, April 02 2014||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Oklahoma City||Thursday, April 03 2014||8:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|Memphis||Sunday, April 06 2014||7:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Dallas||Thursday, April 10 2014||8:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|Phoenix||Friday, April 11 2014||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Houston||Monday, April 14 2014||8:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Wednesday, April 16 2014||8:00 PM EDT||coverage|