Remember how certain people were really hyping Tiago Splitter before the season as the big man the Spurs really needed to balance out the front line with Tim Duncan? Remember how people were saying he was going to be a difference maker for the Spurs this season?
Okay, that was me. I admit it. And we’ve seen flashes of that Splitter but mostly we’ve seen him sitting. He’s averaging just 11 minutes a game.
What happened? A fantastic post at Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell explains the litany of problems.
Remember that Splitter played deep into the European season last year then just straight into playing for Brazil for the World Championships. There he picked up a couple nagging injuries which he brought with him Spurs camp just a couple weeks after that. It was a lot of basketball.
Then came a strained right calf muscle a couple days into camp, which caused him to miss most of it.
“He had some things break down while he was in Europe and then he came here and had the problem with his calf,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said earlier in the season. “I think all in all, his body is probably just telling him to take a break. So we don’t want to bring him back and stick him out there for an inordinate amount of time.”
Missing camp really hurt because Splitter has never been really comfortable in the Spurs offense this season. He has to set a lot of picks but it’s about timing and placement, and Splitter is off in those departments compared to other bigs on the Spurs roster. Popovich has options
So he hasn’t gotten a lot of run, then combine that with how well the Spurs are playing and you have a coach not about to give him big minutes to learn on the job.
“I can’t just go and experiment and give him 30 minutes to get him going,” Coach Pop said. “It’s not fair to him or to the whole group. It’s just got to happen slowly and we’ll see what’s required as far as the team is concerned because that’s what I have to look at.”
Come the playoffs when the Spurs could face longer front lines — Lakers, we’re looking at you — Splitter could play a key role. But for now, his minutes will be limited as he figures it all out.