He may not have enjoyed the spotlight and spoils that came with the NBA All-Star Weekend like teammate Gary Neal did. He may not make ESPN’s top 10 Plays of the Night like Los Angeles Clippers forward and dunk expert Blake Griffin does. Heck, come to think of it, most NBA fans across the country probably don’t even know who he is until he substitutes in the game. At least that’s the case now for San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter.
Though his rookie season may not be playing out the way many had hoped, the 6-foot-11 Brazilian has no doubt already given coaches and fans plenty of reasons to salivate over his future with the Silver and Black. Sure he has been sidelined with injuries for a good portion of his first year, and his averages may not be the best. But make no doubt about it, each time he has stepped on the court he has more than made his presence known.
Splitter is currently averaging 4.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Considering he’s averaging 11.2 minutes per game and has played in 41 total games this season, those aren’t bad numbers at all. Also keep in mind that most of the time he’s playing these low minutes with some of the Spurs’ biggest game changers — Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Richard Jefferson — are watching from the bench.
To be able to produce the kinds of averages he is when he is not, only speaks volumes about his talent, it gives the Spurs an added asset when they need to rest their two veteran big men, Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess. And his play is phenomenal. The next time he subs into the game, keep an eye solely on him, and watch what he does. He’s always chasing loose balls, placing himself in position to grab the rebound and defending some of league’s best big men.
Signing Splitter this past offseason wasn’t just a good move, it was a great move. Don’t agree? Think he should’ve been put on the trading block? Don’t bring up the T-word just yet. Splitter is coming from the Spanish ACB League, which, with all due respect, doesn’t have the same amount of talent the NBA does. It’s not easy to jump into a new league where the players are much bigger, stronger, faster and more physical.
It would be like putting San Antonio’s best player from the local Parks & Recreation league in the D-League. Though he may be athletic, tall and enthusiastic about the opportunity to compete at such a level, there’s going to be a few growing pains along the way. And Splitter has had his share of pains to say the least. Injuries have kept him out of 18 games this season, including the last seven due to a strained left hamstring he suffered during the Rodeo Road Trip.
Prior to his second set-back, Splitter was coming off a 16-point, nine rebound performance against the Sacramento Kings. He added six more points and eight boards on Feb. 9 in Toronto before he was injured in the third quarter. More importantly, he’s played well defensively against the likes of some of the youngest top big men in the league, like Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins, and championship-caliber centers like Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is itching to get Splitter back on the court. The Spurs may be 5-2 without him, but not having him there to step in while Duncan and McDyess rest takes its toll on the two veterans, especially against younger teams fighting for playoff positioning like Portland, Memphis, Phoenix, Denver and New Orleans. And don’t think he won’t be missed now with the recent announcement Tony Parker will be out for 2-4 weeks with a strained left calf muscle.
It usually takes players at least one full season to pick up the Spurs’ system. Just look at Richard Jefferson and DeJuan Blair. Their numbers might be slightly the same or even up from last season, but what it boils down to is that they are contributing more this year. In some games, it may be points and rebounds while in others it’s defense, rebounding and tenacity. Splitter may not be the player most people want now, but he is sure to become more than anyone expected.
There are some highnotes I would have to say about Splitter's performance (or lack thereof) lately. First, while he hasn't been playing well, it never hinders his drive and energy when he comes into each game. He really cherishes and is thankful for the opportunity to play, rather than whine and moan about lack of minutes. And even when he does get into foul trouble early, he still plays hard the next game and so on, etc.
I think this will actually be beneficial come playoff time. We have some young guys who have been accustomed to being "hot" and great shooter's during the regular season- but throw them into pivotal playoff games and sometimes you freeze up, choke, wither away and you lose your comfort, your game, and mistakes start taking there toll on you. With Tiago, he is able to forget his mistakes in the moment, and continue to try hard- he's not going to be able to learn and correct them on the fly, but hopefully he will be able to "forget" long-enough to prevent it from changing his play and growth come time for the big games.
Second, and I think this is what will make him grow drasticallly between this season and next, is his humbleness. He has been injured and out, playing on the bench which with all the hype we all gave him I'm sure he didn't expect, and that can either go two ways. We know the type of players the Spurs like and it's a positive sign that he chose the high road, didn't complain, and accepted it. Because of this, he has become humble, he understand the value of re-formating his game, studying harder, getting a better grip on the system both for his team and the NBA, and he will (hopefully) work that much harder in the off-season. Plus with people like TD and McD's there, he has a lot of experience ot help him out.
Yea, Tiago is a tough one to judge, because he just doesn't get enough consistent playing time to make an accurate judgement. I think getting through a whole training came with the team this summer will help his development.
It's hard to make a judgement on Tiago. However, there has been zero NBA players with size who have been freed up lately and not a one have been seen running to the Spurs. You have a European most valuable player in your roster. I say you have to try to develope him because size does matter in the NBA.
I'm a little disappointed on Tiago's play I expected him to contribute right away this season but that was not the case, same thing with James Anderson. Good thing we have Gary Neal.
Splitter needs to be consistent, I'm not satisfied with his performance. I think his avergaes are misleading. He rarely plays against good teams and scores a lot of garbage points or just plays well against weaker competition. He needs to bring his A game.
I have no doubt about Tiago's ability to play well on the court, the problem is he either gets into foul trouble or gets injured easily. I bet this is a very frustrating season for him.