Tiago Splitter

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.

Pizza and soccer on agenda for Celtics on trip to Italy

Perry Jones III, Malcolm Miller, James Young, Jordan Mickey
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MILAN (AP) — After a couple of days in Milan, Isaiah Thomas‘ Italian experience is still lacking a certain something.

“I’m waiting on some pizza,” said a laughing Thomas, who used to do commercials for a regional pizza franchise when he played for the Sacramento Kings. “The place we went to last night didn’t have no pizza so hopefully tonight we go somewhere I can order some pizza for real.”

This trip isn’t just about culinary experiences, though. The Celtics are in Milan to play an exhibition game against Olimpia Milano on Tuesday before traveling to Spain to play Real Madrid as part of the NBA Global Games.

Ahead of the team’s practice session on Sunday, Thomas was also looking forward to his first soccer match, as the Celtics headed to San Siro later for AC Milan’s home match against Napoli in the Italian league – after an afternoon trip to nearby Lake Como.

“That’s going to be fun,” Thomas told The Associated Press at the Celtics’ first practice in Italy. “I’m excited about that. I’ve never been to a soccer match, to have my first soccer match be in Italy is going to be nice.”

Teammate Marcus Smart said the trip was also an important bonding experience for a young roster with plenty of new pieces. They went for a players-only meal in Milan on Saturday night.

“We had a good time with each other,” Smart said. “No phones, so everyone was talking to one other. It was good overall fun.

“We understand the severity of this trip, it is a business trip but at the same time not many people get this chance to travel like we do so we understand its business but we’re here to have fun at the same time.”

Coach Brad Stevens has overseen plenty of rebuilding since taking over the Celtics in 2013 but still led the team to the playoffs last season after trading point guard Rajon Rondo – the only remaining player from the 2008 championship team. After being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team is aiming higher this season. For Stevens, it all starts here in Italy.

“These sessions are really important to get something accomplished in practice and to make sure that we’re continuing to progress,” Stevens said. “It’s still very much a part of our training camp, and so you’ve got all of the great things about being a tourist – getting a chance to see new things and experience new things – and at the same time we’re 24 or 25 days away from our season opener.”

And after spending so many hours in the gym during the offseason, Thomas is ready to start playing actual games again – even if its just preseason.

“We’re ready to beat up on somebody else, we’re tired of beating up on each other,” Smith said.

Kings’ Karl admits mistakes in DeMarcus Cousins trade controversey

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In the NBA, elite players have the leverage. It is just simple supply and demand.

DeMarcus Cousins is an elite player — and a favorite of owner Vivek Ranadive. He is not going anywhere.

Which made this summer’s “George Karl wants trade Cousins” a battle the coach couldn’t ultimately win — the owner wasn’t going to sign off on it, and the fans are going to side with Boogie. Remember Karl said he never had a player that was untradable, and that spiraled into reports Karl probed trade options with other teams, much to the frustration of management and Cousins himself.

Karl owned up to some of his mistakes in an interview on Comcast Bay Area, as reported by James Ham at CSNBayArea.com.

“To be honest with you, I apologized to DeMarcus for making the trade comment that I’ve never coached a player that’s untradeable,” Karl told Christensen. “That was wrong for me to say, because you all (the media) took it and blew it up into crazy.”

“But it’s my responsibility to be smart enough to not say things like that,” Karl continued. “So I did apologize because I thought that was the only thing, maybe some other things, but really the only thing that got us separated was that comment that then everybody wrote the we’re going to trade [Cousins].”

The relationship between Cousins and Karl — not to mention Rajon Rondo and other veterans — is the biggest key to the Kings’ season. Karl and Cousins say their relationship is solid now, but what happens when that is put under stress at some point during the season?

In talking to people around the team, the Kings players seemed to have formed a tight bond — even if part of the glue of that bond is a distrust of Karl that can work for them. This is a team that has the talent to compete for the bottom couple playoff seeds in the Western Conference, but everybody needs to be pulling on the rope in the same direction. We will see pretty quickly if the Kings can do that.