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.
Kevin Durant might have left the Thunder, in part, because he grew tired of playing with Russell Westbrook.
But does that mean nobody wants to play with Westbrook?
Presented with that claim, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter refuted it strongly:
Of course, many players want to play with Russell Westbrook. He’s a great player and even better competitor. People want to be around someone so maniacal about winning and capable of delivering.
But there’s an obvious difference between Kanter and Durant. It’s much easier for a pick-and-roll big man than a superstar wing to play with Westbrook.
Westbrook tends to over-dribble, and he can be selfish. I’d understand Durant preferring a team with more ball movement like the Warriors.
Kanter doesn’t have the cachet to pick any team at any salary like Durant did. Of his options, Kanter is probably genuinely happy to play with Westbrook. And the Thunder should be happy to have Westbrook (as long as they do). His strengths far outweigh his flaws.
No scoring star seamlessly blend with each other. Even LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — close friends and one an elite passer — struggled to mesh early in their Heat days. It’s just hard when there’s one ball.
So, it’s unfair to kill Westbrook for this drawback to his game. Maybe he’d click better with another star who’s more aggressive than Durant. And it’s not even as if Westbrook and Durant failed together. Oklahoma City won a lot of games with those two.
Plenty of players would sign up to replace Durant as Westbrook’s partner in crime.
Amar’e Stoudemire — despite spending more time and having more success with the Suns — signed with the Knicks to retire.
Why not Phoenix?
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Stoudemire was linked to the Suns last year, but a return never happened.
It didn’t make more sense now. Phoenix already has 15 players, the regular-season roster limit. John Jenkins and Alan Williams have unguaranteed deals, but why waive one for Stoudemire? The Suns are semi-rebuilding, and Tyson Chandler already serves as a veteran big.
There’s a reason Stoudemire retired rather then sign somewhere. Maybe nobody wanted him.
But it’s also only July, and teams are still filling out their rosters. If Stoudemire wants to keep playing, he might have opportunities later, especially after the trade deadline. He’s just 33. There’s now reason to believe his retirement won’t stick.
Derek Fisher is already stumping for his second head-coaching job.
Fisher has done plenty since retiring as a player — getting hired by the Knicks, getting fired by the Knicks and in between being attacked by Matt Barnes and finding another controversy about player relations.
All the while, Fisher counted against the cap for the Thunder, his last NBA team.
Oklahoma City finally renounced him to sign Alex Abrines.
Albert Nahmad of Heat Hoops:
This is one of my favorite salary-cap quirks, explained in further detail here.
These are becoming fewer and further between, because teams are using cap room more frequently as the salary cap skyrockets. Gone are the days of a team operating above the cap for a dozen straight years.
There’s also even less utility in old cap holds now that a player must have played the prior season for a team to be used in a sign-and-trade. (Not that these holds were useful except the rarest of occasions prior, anyway.)
Fisher’s quick transition from playing to coaching helped make this an exception, allowing this weird (and trivial) transaction.
Where will the NBA hold the 2017 All-Star game?
New Orleans? Probably.
New York/Brooklyn or Chicago? Maybe.
One more maybe: Las Vegas.
Scott Kusher of The Advocate:
The NBA held All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas in 2007. By all accounts, it was wild.
I’d be surprised if the league returned the event to Las Vegas, but at this point, I’d really be surprised by any option besides New Orleans.