Spurs look to go to 11-1 tonight

The San Antonio Spurs go into Memphis tonight looking to extend their four game winning streak against the Grizzlies.

The Grizz are coming off their own little winning streak having defeated two top team in the LA CLippers and the Golden State Warriors during a four game road trip.  The team is looking to keep the streak going at home.

“New coach, new offense … we just have to get used to it,” point guard Mike Conley said after Wednesday’s 88-81 overtime win over the Warriors. “Now we’ve been able to figure it out.”

“They’re playing great basketball, so they will be a great test for us,” Parker said of the Grizzlies following the Spurs’ 104-93 win over Boston on Wednesday.

Great Seats and Tickets are still available!

Spurs’ trip to Miami a Heat check

By Jeff McDonald

MIAMI — The Spurs take the floor this afternoon at American Airlines Arena, at long last prepared to square off with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat.

Only about four months too late.

Last June, the Spurs appeared all but ticketed for a trip to South Beach before Oklahoma City ambushed them in the final four games of the Western Conference finals.

Today’s preseason game in Miami isn’t filled with as much meaning as an NBA Finals matchup would have been. For a Spurs’ team that still considers itself very much a title contender, that doesn’t mean it is meaningless.

“It’s a championship team, a championship program,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a great way to see a lot of players play against such a good basketball team. You play a team like that, you get some questions answered.”

Spurs’ players freely admit today’s game won’t serve as a measuring stick in the manner a regular-season game against the defending league champions might.

By the time the benches clear in the second half, the festivities are likely to devolve into the Wesley Witherspoon or Garrett Temple show.

But at the outset, assuming both teams play their regulars, the game should provide a much better gauge than, say, a rematch with Montepaschi Siena.

“It’s better to play the best team than the worst,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “At least you get to play a few minutes against Wade, LeBron and guys like that, that you’ve really got to guard.”

As the preseason hits the home stretch, Popovich says he plans to ramp up the starters’ minutes leading up to the Oct. 31 regular-season opener at New Orleans.

That should be welcome news to any fan paying full price to attend this afternoon’s exhibition.

“It’s only a preseason game and you’re just getting ready,” center Boris Diaw said. “But they are the defending champions, so we’re going to be able to measure ourselves a little bit.”

If nothing else, the opening quarters of today’s game should provide a stress test for the Spurs’ defense-in-progress.

The Heat boast a trio of All-Stars — led by James, a three-time league MVP — who combined to average better than 67 points per game last season. But they’ve added to the mix a pair of dangerous long-range gunners in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

The 36-year-old Allen, who won a championship ring of his own with Boston in 2008, is only the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history with 2,718 made.

“Having players like LeBron and Wade plus Bosh, you need to put people in the paint and make everything crowded,” Ginobili said. “The addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis adds two wonderful shooters. It makes them tougher.”

Improving the Spurs from the middling defensive unit they were a season ago — and have been since the 2007 championship season — was the item atop Popovich’s agenda entering training camp.

Through four preseason games, the Spurs are allowing opponents to shoot 33.8 percent and are giving up 95 points per game.

In their only loss of the preseason, the Spurs at least held Denver — the only team to average more points than them in the regular season last year — to less than triple digits.

It’s so far, so good. But then again, the Spurs haven’t faced the defending champs yet.

The Spurs believe they will know more about themselves after the smoke clears today. How much more remains to be seen.

“It’s not going to be a measuring stick to see who wins, because the preseason is not about winning,” Ginobili said. “It’s about getting better, and playing against the best players makes you better.”

Even in the preseason.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

NBA free agent sweepstakes begin

The NBA’s free agent sweepstakes have begun, and we already have proof why, no matter what restrictions and penalties it puts in place, the league will never be able to complete protect owners from themselves:

Minnesota has – the same Batum who averaged 13.9 points per game last season for the Trail Blazers and has never showed signs of being more than a good role player – a four-year deal that would roughly quintuple his annual salary north of $10 million.

And so it went on opening day, with teams wasting little time in rushing to spend – or, some cases, squander – their hard-earned cap space.

As it was with the draft, it would appear to be a relatively uneventful period for the Spurs.

Franchise legend Tim Duncan is a formality to re-sign, role players Daniel Green and Patty Mills are both restricted, and Boris Diaw has lost enough battles with croissants over the years to make any team leery about throwing major dollars his way despite his solid contributions to the Spurs after his late-season addition.

Any additions will likely be of the nickel-and-dime variety, as has been the Spurs’ penchant over the years. Various reports have identified past-their-primers like Utah small forward Josh Howard and Toronto point guard Jose Calderon as potential targets.

With the perimeter seemingly in solid shape, reserve bigs like Greg Stiemsma (Boston, restricted), Marcus Camby (Houston, unrestricted) or Reggie Evans (L.A. Clippers, unrestricted) could be economical pickups worth exploring.

A handy list of all the available players can be found .

Elsewhere around the league:

* Indiana All-Star center and restricted free agent Roy Hibbert has reportedly (4 years, $58 million) from Portland and at least one other team.

* Toronto will reportedly at longtime Phoenix cornerstone Steve Nash in an attempt to lure him back home to Canada.

* With for multiple years, Boston will try to for the services of aging sharp shooter Ray Allen.

* Los Angeles Clipper forward Blake Griffin is , while teammate Chris Paul turned one down in the hopes of landing a richer deal next year.

* to deal the grossly overpaid Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, where he could join Dwight Howard, who – predictably – has renewed his trade demands.