BOBCATS AT SPURS, 8:30 P.M. ET

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  • Gregg Popovich will return to the San Antonio bench after missing three games due to an illness. He can become the coach of the West squad in the All-Star game with a win tonight or a Clippers’ loss at Minnesota. Mike Budenholzer went 3-0 during Popovich’s stay on the sick bed and now is 5-0 when acting as coach in place of Popovich.
  • The return of Tim Duncan (left knee soreness) is not so sure for the Spurs. “If I err,” Popovich said, “I want to err on the conservative side. I just want to be sure he’s ready.” This will be the fourth consecutive game Duncan has missed because of the knee.
  • The Spurs will be thin inside because DeJuan Blair (right knee fluid buildup) and Matt Bonner (right knee) also will miss the game. It could mean Aron Baynes, who joined the Spurs last week after the team bought out his European League contract for a reported $400,000, will see his first significant minutes. Baynes, a member of the Australian national team and former starter at Washington State, has played 42 seconds in the two games he’s been available.
  • The absence of those Spurs big men could mean more big numbers for Charlotte’s Jeff Adrien. After being called up from the D-League, Adrien got his first career start in place of Hakim Warrick and had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) Monday at Chicago. “He’s a rock,” Mike Dunlap said. “I knew he wasn’t going to get pushed around.”

Tim Price

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