San Antonio (42-8) at Detroit (19-32)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Monday, Feb 7, 2011 Tipoff: 7:30 pm EST Tue Feb 8, 2011

The San Antonio Spurs are ready to start the second phase of their “Rodeo Road Trip.” The first stop could be tough if Richard Hamilton(notes) sees action against them.

The Spurs begin a stretch of six straight road games against the Eastern Conference on Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, who may play Hamilton at home for the first time in a month.

San Antonio (42-8) takes this annual trip since the AT&T Center is occupied by the rodeo. The overall nine-game road stretch began when the Spurs went 2-1 last week before returning home after Saturday’s 113-100 victory at Sacramento.

The Spurs cruised Saturday, building an 18-point halftime lead after losing at Portland and beating the Los Angeles Lakers.

“For me, the break is huge,” All-Star guard Manu Ginobili(notes) said. “The Laker game was tough for me.”

Ginobili was happy to have the rest after averaging 13.3 points on 32.6 percent shooting in the three games, far worse than his season numbers of 18.5 points per game and 43.0 percent shooting.

The Spurs split two difficult games with the Pistons last season, breaking away from a fourth-quarter tie for a 112-92 win and losing 109-101 in overtime at The Palace of Auburn Hills. San Antonio had trouble with Hamilton, who averaged 28.0 points.

There seems to be a better chance that the Spurs will see the three-time All-Star on Tuesday since Hamilton saw action for the first time in 13 games in Saturday’s 89-78 victory at Milwaukee. Hamilton was left off the active roster for Friday’s 92-82 home win over New Jersey.

Coach John Kuester did not comment about the future of Hamilton, whose last appearance at home was Jan. 8.

“I don’t have a problem with him, but I don’t think it will ever get back to the way it was,” Hamilton said. “I said from Day One: Stay professional. Be ready. You never know what’s going to happen. I didn’t know if it was going to be here or if I’d be playing somewhere else.”

Tracy McGrady(notes) scored 20 points, Hamilton had 15 and Tayshaun Prince(notes) 12 for Detroit (19-32) on Saturday. The Pistons are 7-9 without Hamilton and 12-23 with him.

“I don’t think it has become a distraction for us,” Prince said. “We need him. There’s no doubt about that. At the same time a lot of games, sometimes we were playing behind the eight ball and that’s what we’re doing without him.”

Point guard Rodney Stuckey(notes) has missed five straight games with a right shoulder contusion.

A backcourt without Hamilton and Stuckey could be problematic as Detroit tries to slow down Tony Parker(notes), who has averaged 23.0 points on 20-of-28 shooting in back-to-back victories. Parker said he was disappointed that he wasn’t named to the All-Star team.

“Tony has been playing at an All-Star level all season,” teammate Richard Jefferson(notes) said. “On another team, he would be averaging 25 points a game.”

San Antonio can become the seventh team to begin 43-8 or better. The 1996-97 NBA champion Bulls were the last, starting 45-6.

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Tuesday, Feb 8