You just stumbled upon this article. You’re sitting there, reading right now. PAUSE! Go outside, quick! You walk outside and see the “DeLorean car” parked from ‘Back To The Future.’ Do you see it? Well, I need you to get inside and set the date for October 12, 2010. Done?
Lightning flashes around the sky, as Doc Brown tells you to begin accelerating at 88 mph. You hit 88 mph and BAM! You’re back in 2010. You get out of the DeLorean, hide it and walk into an emphatic arena. The basketball court is bright red and there are thousands of fans cheering on, as the Spurs and Clippers are in a close game. You ask a fan “Where am I?” The fan replies “Estas en Mexico!” You then realize; you’re in Mexico City for a San Antonio Spurs-Los Angeles Clippers preseason game.
You look down at the court, the Clippers score a late basket to make it Clippers 99, Spurs 97. Coach Pop calls a timeout. He hands the clipboard to Manu Ginobili, Manu gathers the team around and draws up a play. With seven seconds left in the ball game, the Spurs pass to Gary Neal; he quickly passes it to Bobby Simmons, then Simmons throws it back to him. Neal dribbles around in between the top of the key three-point line, on the right side and hoists up a 3-pointer. Swish! Gary Neal hits a game winner and the Spurs win 100-99! Mexico is going wild! Now, pinch yourself and wake up! That was just a dream! But watch out, Gary Neal, is real!
The San Antonio Spurs acquired three rookies at the beginning of the season, with strong hopes for two of them: Tiago Splitter (big name coming in), James Anderson (drafted in the first round) and Gary Neal (wait, who?). With half the season in the books, let’s see how these three rookies have panned out thus far.
The Brazilian (I haven’t really earned a nickname yet) Big Man
In the summer, the Spurs learned they were going to be able to finally bring in Tiago Splitter from overseas. Hype had begun building. Phrases like: “He’s a mixture of Scola and Oberto,” “he’s going to score in the post so Timmy can rest,” and “he’s the big man of the future for the Spurs” were all ramblings to be heard from everywhere. Splitter came in with the title of “Best Big Man in Europe, not in the NBA.” He arrived, and immediately got hurt in training camp. He missed both training camp and the preseason games. He made his NBA debut against the Clippers and scored two points and one rebound.
His second game showed Spurs fans a glimpse of what he could be. Against the Phoenix Suns, Tiago poured in seven points and three rebounds in limited action. Seven points and three rebounds looked decent but it wasn’t the production Tiago would consistently give.
Let’s look at some of his numbers to dig down a little further.
Current stat line: 30 games, 11 mpg, FG 50%, FT 61%, 2.5 rbd, .33 blk, .60 TO, 1.6PF, 4.2 ppg.
So, all this hype coming in, and we have a guy only playing eleven minutes while providing four points and three rebounds? What happened to the Luis Scola correlation? Where’s the Fabricio Oberto passing and rebounding ability?
Now let’s look at how he’s played against nine good teams (Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans, Portland, Utah, Oklahoma City)
Against good teams: 8.9 mpg, 2.3 rbd, 3.1 ppg.
Now, let’s look at his production through the months:
November: 12 mpg, 5 ppg, 3 rbd.
December: 10 mpg, 4 ppg, 2 rbd.
January: 11 mpg, 4 ppg, 2 rbd.
As you can see, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is only giving him about eleven minutes per game. That is his only chance to try and make an impact for the coaches to see.
As I’ve watched Splitter this season, he looks really confused on the defensive end. He just doesn’t look comfortable out there. He always looks one step slower than the rest of the team. On the offensive end, when he catches the ball he always looks confused as to whether to pass it or post his defender.
Is there any hope for the future?
Yes, Splitter has shown some bright spots in his game. He had a career high against Cleveland with 18 points in 26 minutes. He’s reached 10+ points four times (18 pts vs Cleveland, 12 pts vs. Golden State, 12 pts vs. Denver, 11 pts vs. Orlando).
Also, you do need to understand he’s not getting the playing time due to: Matt Bonner shooting lights out, Duncan being Duncan, DeJuan Blair having big games every other night and Antonio McDyess being as consistent as usual. So with the other four big guys playing at a high level, it’s hard for Tiago, let alone any big guy, to get some minutes on this Spurs team. Here’s how Tiago might get some playing time: if the Spurs can stay hot and gain a huge lead on the second team in the league, I think Pop will begin to rest Duncan and McDyess even more. With more playing time, Tiago will have his chance to show off his talents right before the playoffs.
Let's also not forget, Splitter came into the NBA playing a lot over the summer with the Brazilian National Team, suffered nagging injuries before the injury in training camp and played deep into the Spanish Finals.
I believe Splitter is a year away from being an effective big man on this team. If he does play in April, he’ll just be an extra body to rack up fouls against the Lakers, Mavericks, Celtics and Magic. But for this season, looking at how his monthly average has stayed the same, I don’t really see him being much of an impact. Post play will go as far as Duncan, McDyess, Blair and Bonner hold it down.
Ahhhhh, Mr. Anderson………. (Matrix Voice)