Tiago Splitter understandably a bit frustrated with his lack of playing time

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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.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

Associated Press
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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.

Tyronn Lue doesn’t hold back with retort to heckling Pacers’ fan

Associated Press
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It’s a part of the NBA experience that most fans don’t get to hear — some fans courtside heckling opposing players and coaches, and those guys occasionally firing back. We only tend to hear about it when things cross a line.

Sometimes the interactions are just funny, such as this one passed along by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Well played, Lue.

Although is Cleveland really a city at the forefront of fashion? Well, I suppose if you went to college in Nebraska…

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.

Report: Suns talk to Jason Kidd, Vinny Del Negro about coaching job

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Mike Budenholzer is out (and may be thinking New York). Suns’ interim coach Jay Triano and former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale are still in the mix.

The Suns also have reached out to Jason Kidd — who was let go by the Bucks mid-season — and former Bulls and Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

This is still early in a lengthy search process, there is a long way to go before anyone gets offered this job.

Kidd now lives in Phoenix. He’s considered a smart coach but one who falls in and out of love with players fast, pushes hard for the players he wants (and against those he doesn’t), and didn’t utilize the talent on the Bucks to its best advantage. The Suns have to ask if he is the right guy for a rebuild. He can coach, he’s going to get another chance, but do the Suns want to give it to him?

Mentioning Del Negro will lead to howls from the Suns’ fanbase, but to be fair he gets a bit of a bad rap as a coach. Del Negro won 53.3 percent of his games as a coach, and only one team he coached ever finished below .500. He’s had some success developing players, starting with Derrick Rose. All that said, there are reasons Suns’ fans are right to howl: simplistic offenses, a heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and remember he broke the confidence of DeAndre Jordan (Doc Rivers had to build it back up).

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season and are looking to replace him. The new coach will have a very good young scorer in Devin Booker on the roster and after that a lot of young question marks. This is a development job where the Suns need to hire a guy who can put in a system, then bring in more talent and stay out of the new coach’s way. We’ll see if the Suns can do that.