Tiago Splitter’s NBA career officially begins tonight, as the Brazilian star will likely take to the court for limited minutes against the Clippers. It’s been a long time coming, and for the Spurs, perhaps a long time needed. San Antonio has tried all kinds of stopgap solutions alongside Tim Duncan over the years, and perhaps Splitter, when fully healthy, is exactly the kind of big man that could propel the Spurs back into the league’s top tier.
Let’s not expect anything earth-shaking out of Splitter his first day out, though. With that in mind, here are a few things to look for, be wary of, and appreciate in Splitter’s NBA debut:
- Rust. Splitter’s been out of the loop for a bit, and to expect him to cartwheel his way into full-speed basketball action again would be a tad ridiculous. He’s going to a look a bit…off. His timing, his coordination, his conditioning. The Spurs reportedly plan to ease Splitter back into action behind DeJuan Blair, and that’s really the only course of action. He’s not ready to play regular minutes just yet, but he is ready to give the Spurs something off the bench and us something to look forward to.
- Footwork. Even injury won’t prevent Splitter from showing off his brilliant technique. He understands how to create space for himself on the block and in the lane, and though some of Splitter’s moves may seem a bit awkward on first glance, look closely and you’ll see a pretty creative big man that knows how to use his pivot radius.
- Expectations. Keep them reasonable, people. Not just tonight, but for Splitter’s entire season, and perhaps his career. He’s not a cure-all. He’s only a pretty good rebounder, his jumper isn’t exactly pretty or true, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be a volume NBA scorer. The odds favor Splitter being a very good complementary player, but never a true star, and that’s fine. He’s not going to change the game, but he’ll make the Spurs better, and he’ll continue to do the same with any team he plays for during his stay in the league. He’s a smart, hard-working, effective player, even if something short of a hands-down All-Star.
- Defense. Splitter is a terrific pick-and-roll defender, and that facet of his game makes him a particularly intriguing NBA prospect. It’s fun watching Splitter work defensive magic in far off lands, but it’ll be another to see him hedge, recover, and contest in the good ol’ U.S. of A. The idea of Duncan and Splitter defending opposing pick-and-rolls together should make basketball enthusiasts of all walks positively giddy.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had his seventh consecutive triple-double Friday night in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s game against the Houston Rockets, the longest streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989.
Westbrook got his 10th rebound with 7:46 left in the fourth quarter. He already had 16 points and 10 assists. Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The Thunder won the first six games during his streak, however they fell to James Harden and the Rockets 102-99. Harden was one rebound short of his own triple-double.
It was Westbrook’s 12th triple-double of the season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA’s active leader in the category and ranks overall.
Jordan’s streak came during a run of 10 triple-doubles in 11 games.
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA has denied the Toronto Raptors’ protest of their 102-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 20.
The league announced the decision Friday.
Toronto argued that the game officials incorrectly called for an instant replay review of whether the Raptors’ Terrence Ross released a 3-point shot prior to the expiration of actual time remaining.
The Replay Center official reviewed video of the play using a digital timer and determined the actual time remaining in the game expired before Ross released his shot, and the shot therefore did not count.
The league found that calling for an instant replay review in this case was consistent with the playing rules because the game officials determined that there was a clock malfunction.
Nobody can stop the Zeller brothers!
Well, that’s not exactly true. But in this case, Bismack Biyombo tried and Cody Zeller threw it down with authority over him.
I’m not starting a “Cody Zeller for the dunk contest” campaign, but this was impressive.
Pop quiz: Which team complains the most to the referees in the NBA?
You probably answered “the Clippers.” Most fans do. So do most NBA referees — And everyone else. Which is why after a recent loss to Golden State, veteran Marreese Speight (a Warrior last season) pointed to the Clippers complaining about the officiating as part of the problem.
He went on to say that the scouting report is you can get in the Clippers’ heads by knocking them around a little. Which seems pretty obvious when you watch teams play them. Shockingly, Clippers coach Doc Rivers disagrees with that. Via NBCLosAngeles.com.
“The officiating thing, I don’t think, is our issue. I will say that,” said Rivers about the technical fouls. “If that were the problem, then, Golden State would be struggling. They’ve been No. 2 the last two years in techs, too. I think we need to point fingers in another direction than that.”
Doc may not like it, but Speights is right.
The Warriors do complain too much, but they also have a ring so more is forgiven. The problem for the Clippers is that reputation for complaining starts with Rivers — he complains as much or more than any coach in the league. Then it filters down through Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Is it fair that more is forgiven with winning? Moot question. Welcome to America. The Clippers complain a lot and have yet to get past the second round with this core. And at times there standing there complaining to the referees does get in the way of them getting back into defense, and they seem to go in a funk.
Want to prove all that wrong? Win. In the playoffs.