SAN ANTONIO – There was a little more room on the Spurs’ chartered flight to Phoenix for their preseason opener Monday night, after the team announced six veterans wouldn’t make the trip.
Coach Gregg Popovich said last week he was planning to take every player on the team to Phoenix except guard Danny Green, who is nursing a bruised thigh.
Other players besides Green who didn’t make the trip were LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Tony Parker. Green hasn’t practiced since the Spurs started training camp last Tuesday.
Kawhi Leonard will be the only returning starter from last year’s team to suit up for Monday’s game, which tips off at 9 p.m.
The Spurs play the Atlanta Hawks in their first home preseason game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the AT&T Center. They open the regular season against two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Oakland, Calif.
San Antonio plays New Orleans in its home opener on Saturday, Oct. 29.
The Silver and Black finished a franchise-best 67-15 last season and lost to Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
Team captain Tim Duncan retired in July after playing his entire 19-year career with San Antonio. He, along with Popovich, was the constant on all five Spurs championship teams. The Silver and Black signed free-agent center/forward Pau Gasol in July to help fill the void left by Duncan’s retirement.
Preparing for his 16th NBA season, Gasol won two league titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and has been named to the All-NBA team four times. A six-time All-Star, Gasol averaged 16.5 points, 11 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2 blocks with the Chicago Bulls last season.