And so the title defense and an attempt to repeat as NBA champions for the first time begins for the San Antonio Spurs, opening the 2014-2015 NBA season with a home game against the Dallas Mavericks, who were the closest team to get in the way of the Spurs in last season’s playoffs.
The Mavericks dragged the Spurs to seven games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, but eventually couldn’t take advantage of taking a 2-1 lead in the series, with game 7 turning into an easy win for the Spurs, who went on to lose only four times in the next three series combined. The Spurs didn’t change one bit over the summer, only adding rookie Kyle Anderson. The Mavs held on to some players, but are new in more than one way.
One player who will be missing for the Spurs is Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP, who is out with an eye infection that’s been nagging at him for over two weeks, but shouldn’t be keeping him out from official action for long. The Spurs and Leonard need to work out an extension very soon, but Leonard is trying to get a max contract, while the Spurs are doing everything they can to stay away from spending so much on one player.
So what’s new for the Mavericks? Jose Calderon is gone, and so is Vince Catrter and Samuel Dalembert. But Dirk Nowitzki is still here, and so is Monta Ellis, taking care of the offense. The team added two big names in Chandler Parsons through restricted free agency with the Houston Rockets caught dreaming and left with nothing, while Tyson Chandler returned to the team he won an NBA championship with after three seasons with the New York Knicks.
Raymond Felton is another player who is new to the setup, but he’s out with an injury. Jameer Nelson, another newcomer to the team will start at the point guard position, as the Mavs will also try to fill the hole left by the departure of Shawn Marion, which means someone needs to fill in for his defense and rebounding.
You never know what to expect on opening night. Without Leonard, we might see Austin Daye in the lineup or maybe even Anderson, but the Spurs might opt to play Manu Ginobili in the backcourt next to Tony Parker and move Danny Green to the small forward position.
Gregg Popovich always says every season is about picking up right from the start, not from where you left off. That’s fine for the Mavs, who are something of a new team anyway with the same Dirk Nowitzki there as a constant reminder of a more successful past. The Spurs are always a piece of work that’s changing in motion, and it’ll be interesting to see if a new season also means some changes in how they play compared to the road that won them a championship.