Spurs open 2013-14 Season against Memphis Grizzlies

Your reigning Western Conference Champions; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw are back as are Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Cory Joseph, Matt Bonner, Aron Baynes and Nando de Cola.  Add new free agents Jeff Ayers, Marco Belinelli and the Spurs are ready to take on the Western Conference and the NBA.

The season opens with a heavy heart as the franchise knows they were mere seconds from another championship.

“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.”

But if it is one thing you can count on from a Spurs team, is that they will be ready to take the floor from the first to the last tip of the season.

“Everybody’s ready to go,” Popovich said after practice Tuesday. “Preseason is over with and everybody on every team is anxious to play.”

Great seats and Tickets are still available for tonight’s match up.

Player rep Bonner opens up about pains from lockout

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By Mike Monroe

It wasn’t until Matt Bonner stood on the first tee box at the TPC San Antonio golf course on Monday afternoon that the reality of another NBA season struck him.

Hurrying to the annual tournament, which benefits the Kids Sports Network, from the Spurs’ practice facility after a vigorous workout was, well, par for the course.

A year ago, things were dramatically different.

Then, when the sharp-shooting forward hosted his tournament at Canyon Springs Golf Club, it came after a flight from the Northeast the previous afternoon. As a vice president of the players’ association, he knew he would be on his way back to New York the next morning for another negotiating session with NBA owners and executives.

Both sides were in a weeks-long collective-bargaining dispute that had turned ugly while trying to end a lockout that already had extended through the entire month of October, ordinarily the time training camp takes place.

It was a stressful time for all of the players, but especially so for those involved in the talks. There were nights, Bonner said, when it was hard to sleep.

The contrast Monday morning was stark. The only stress Bonner felt: Moderate concern he might hit a spectator with that first tee shot.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich started practice early to accommodate Bonner’s event, then followed him to the course to participate in the fundraiser. Sean Elliott, the former Spurs All-Star who’s now a broadcaster with the team, also played in the tournament.

A year ago, the league wouldn’t even allow team employees and the players to speak to one another.

“Absolutely, it hit me how different this year was,” Bonner said Thursday. “I remember how last year we were trying hard to get clearance to have Coach Popovich and Sean and some of the other retired players who work with NBA teams to come out and participate and we couldn’t get it.

“It was really nice this year to not have to worry about that; not have to worry about something happening in the lockout to where I couldn’t even make it to my own tournament.”

Last year’s lockout didn’t end until Nov. 26, with the start of a shortened 66-game 2011-12 season pushed back to Christmas Day.

Training camp lasted a little more than a week.

The lockout took a toll on Bonner and the other players on the union’s executive committee.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Bonner said. “You go from thinking you’re going to get the deal done and get back to your normal life and doing what you love to thinking it’s never going to happen.

“It was up and down and down and up. And then when it did happen it was, ‘What?’ It didn’t even seem real after everything we had been through.”

Bonner has played only 11 minutes in only two of the Spurs’ four preseason games and has yet to score, attempting only three shots. He knows his time will come.

“It’s a long preseason this year, and that’s kind of nice,” he said. “Last year, with the lockout, there was just one week of hard practices and then right into games.

“That was a lot of fun, but right now we’re getting to work on a lot of things we didn’t get to work on last year and focus in on executing the details.”

His game, he said, is taking shape nicely in practice sessions.

“I’ve played a whole lot in practice, I can tell you that,” he said. “I feel like I’m plugged into my role, and that’s what I do and I think I’ve been doing a good job executing it.”

Twitter: @Monroe_SA

Pregame rule likely won’t affect low-key Spurs

By Jeff McDonald

Just before the start of the Spurs’ preseason game at Houston on Sunday, Tim Duncan grabbed the ball and hugged it tight, as is his pre-tip ritual.

Lead official Ken Mauer glanced at a running clock above the Toyota Center baskets and issued a reminder: “30 seconds, Tim.”

In an effort to curb pregame routines it believes are slowing down the game, the NBA this season is emphasizing a rule that allows referees to assess a delay-of-game warning to teams whose dancing and handshaking choreography gets out of hand.

From the time the house lights go up after pregame introductions, teams are allowed 90 seconds to get jiggy. If all five players are not ready to tip off after those 90 seconds, officials can issue a warning.

Long regarded one of the NBA’s most low-key teams, the Spurs don’t expect to be affected by the rule enforcement.

“I had some 89-second handshakes worked out with my teammates,” forward Matt Bonner said. “I had to cut those out.”

Considering that Miami forward LeBron James’ elaborate chalk-tossing routine has become the stuff of shoe commercials, Bonner was asked if the new edict could rightly be called “The LeBron Rule.”

“No comment,” Bonner said. “I’m not going to say anything to get LeBron mad at me.”

Pop’s mediator: When Don Newman left during the offseason to become Randy Wittman’s lead assistant coach in Washington, it left quite a void in the Spurs’ game-day operations.

For seven seasons, Newman was the coach charged with keeping Gregg Popovich from ringing up technicals. Often, when an exchange between Popovich and a referee would get too heated, Newman would physically step between the two men and shepherd his boss back to the bench.

“He didn’t have to work very hard, because I rarely got one,” Popovich said, though perhaps that’s an indication of how good Newman was at his job. “He just acted like he was holding me back all the time.”

Newman has been replaced on Popovich’s bench by former Spur Ime Udoka, who as a member of the Nigerian national team once had to fight his way out of a gym in Algiers.

Here’s guessing Udoka is up to the task.

Habitat help: Not long after Thursday’s practice, three Spurs players zipped off to a construction site on the city’s southwest side, where hammers and hard hats awaited.

Centers Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter and guard Cory Joseph were among the Spurs Sports Entertainment employees on hand to help with various construction projects in Coleman Ridge, a subdivision developed by Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio.

The event was part of the annual citywide United Way Day of Caring.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN