It took a while for Tiago Splitter to find his spot with the Spurs. The former Spanish League player of the year had to learn the NBA style of game and how to play next to Tim Duncan. But coming into this year he put it all together, and now provides the size and presence inside the Spurs have lacked the last few years.
So they are going to miss him against the Lakers on Sunday, and maybe for a number of games after that.
Splitter rolled his ankle early in the fourth quarter Friday in the Spurs Game 3 win over the Lakers. He was on the ground, pounding his fist on the floor in pain, and when he got up had to be helped, limping, directly to the locker room. He later left the building on crutches with an air cast around his leg.
After the game Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was a sprain but the X-rays were negative. He added Splitter will be out in Game 4 Sunday, later officials said he will likely be out about a week. Expect to see a lot of DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner. (They will not have Boris Diaw back yet, he is expected to start contact work in practice next week.)
“Like we have done all season, we move things around and guys have to be ready to play,” Tim Duncan said after the game. “Matty and DeJaun have to step up and fill that position for us.”
This is the Spurs, no matter who they plug in it seems to work. And work well.
If the Spurs can close out the series Sunday in Game 4 (and smart money says they will after a 31-point Game 3 win) they will have about a week off in which Splitter can get healthy. Television dictates that most of the series start around the same time and the gams six and sevens of series are set for next weekend. So the second round will not start until then.
And by then, the Spurs could have Splitter back.
The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.
Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.
Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.
Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:
For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.
“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”
Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.
I’m here for that.
I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.
Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.
But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.
Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.
Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”
It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.
One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.
Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.
First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.
Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.
But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.
Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?
D'Angelo Russell says he did.
The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.
“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”
Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.
Jackson has a point.