Fast Starters

Tim Duncan couldn't have asked for a better start to the season.

After receiving a contract extension and another NBA championship ring, and leading his team to a victory in the same day, the nine-time All-Star looks to help San Antonio win its first road game Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Hours after agreeing to a two-year, $40 million extension and receiving his fourth ring, Duncan had 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Spurs (1-0) began their title defense with a 106-97 home victory over Portland on Tuesday night.

Duncan is likely to follow his 543rd career double-double with another Wednesday against the Grizzlies, a franchise he is averaging 23.9 points and 12.3 rebounds against in 35 games.

The former top overall draft pick has been the face of the Spurs franchise since coming into the league in 1997-98, and could retire that way.

"That's probably the biggest part of it, to (sign) this extension and hopefully end my career here, that's the biggest part of it," said Duncan, 31, whose new contract is added to his existing three-year deal.

Tony Parker added 19 points Tuesday as the Spurs shot 47.1 percent from the field and forced 16 turnovers.

With the rings passed out and the 2006-07 banner raised, the Spurs can focus on repeating as league champions for the first time in franchise history.

"It's always a special game when you play after a ring ceremony,'' said Parker, who averaged 18 points and nine assists in two games against Memphis in 2006-07. "It's great memories. But we're back to work and ready to defend our title.''

San Antonio looks to open 2-0 for the third time in four seasons, while attempting to once again get off to a strong start on the road. The Spurs won their first seven games away from home on their way to a 27-14 road mark last season.

The Spurs went 3-1 against Memphis in 2006-07, although they had a seven-game winning streak over the Grizzlies snapped with a 101-91 loss at Fed Ex Forum on April 16 in a game where neither Duncan nor Parker played.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made San Antonio -6.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 200 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on San Antonio -6.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

While San Antonio is the jewel of the Southwest, Memphis - which has dropped six consecutive openers - hopes to avoid becoming the joke of the division for the second straight season.

The Grizzlies went 22-60 in 2006-07, the club's worst mark since moving to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001. The Grizzlies opened 5-17 as 7-foot star Pau Gasol missed the first 22 games with plantar fasciitis. Memphis never recovered, failing to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Gasol became disgruntled and was the subject of trade rumors, but now appears focused. He is expected to start Wednesday despite spraining his left ankle in the preseason. He averaged a career-high 20.8 points with 9.9 rebounds in 59 games

"Last year was really, really hard in many ways,'' said Gasol, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds in the April win over the Spurs. "From my injury to the (trade) situation, the losses, the criticism, a lot of negative things. A lot of things happened that did not help me or the team.''

If he can stay healthy, Gasol could benefit from the additions of Darko Milicic and Juan Carlos Navarro.

Milicic, the underachieving 7-footer who is on his third team in five seasons, came over as a free agent and could be ready to break out after averaging 8.0 points in a career-high 80 games with Orlando last season.

Memphis traded a draft pick to Washington for Navarro, Gasol's close friend and teammate on the Spanish national team. He was drafted by Washington in 2002, but has yet to play an NBA game.

"It's important for Pau that I'm here,'' Navarro said. "But it's just as important that he's here for me. We can both help each other. I can be at his house now, instead of talking to him from the other side of the world.''

The Grizzlies went just 14-27 at home last season after posting a 30-11 record there in 2005-06.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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