When Tiago Splitter joined the Spurs in the off-season, he was touted as one of the summer’s most subtle and influential additions. He didn’t have the price tag nor the talent of LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, or Carlos Boozer, but his position and specific skill set made him a perfect fit for San Antonio.
Only things between Splitter the Spurs have progressed a bit more slowly than anticipated, and while San Antonio seems to have made the leap into true contention, their improvement has very little to do with their prized off-season addition. A training camp injury derailed Splitter’s integration into the famed Spurs system, and since then he’s struggled to find a stable place in the rotation.
Splitter has been a star in the Euroleague, in the Spanish ACB League, and in international play. With that kind of résumé, it’s not all that surprising that he’s finding it hard to adjust to life at the end of the Spurs’ bench. From Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
Though [Gregg] Popovich has been pleased with Splitter’s grasp of the Spurs’ system in a macro sense, the coach does not yet trust him with its finer details. “There are so many different things I might do during a game, and he’s not going to know exactly what he should be doing,” Popovich said. “That makes it tough for him and for us.” Popovich acknowledges Splitter is “in a position that’s got to be really frustrating.”
“He’s used to playing a lot of minutes and being a big part of what’s going on,” Popovich said. “That’s not happening for him right now, and I’m not in a position to give him 30 minutes to get him going. That’s not fair to him or to the whole group.”
Of all the adjustments the 6-foot-11 Splitter has had to make in relocating from Europe, learning to be a spectator has been the most difficult. He would have liked to have been a more meaningful participant in the Spurs’ 17-3 start. “I’m trying to fit in a team that is already made,” Splitter said. “Sometimes it’s tough for me. I just have to be patient.”
Luckily, Splitter seems to be taking a wise perspective on his endeavors with the Spurs, which is the best approach for all parties. There’s still plenty of time for Tiago to work himself into a comfort zone with Popovich, and by the end of the season, we may even see Splitter used as advertised. He’s plenty capable of providing quality minutes for San Antonio, and since his shortcomings thus far seem to have more to do with a lack of familiarity than a lack of skill, the Spurs are among the group of contenders that could only get better.