After seemingly years of hype, Tiago Splitter got a very cold reception to the NBA.
He was trying to cover Blake Griffin on the right low block when Griffin put a lighting-quick spin move on him, went baseline and threw down a monster dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.
There’s talent in Europe, but not the explosive athletes you see nightly in the NBA like Griffin. It was a fine how-do-you-do.
If Splitter did not come in as a hyped European player you would have said he had a solid first game. A workman like game. He had a dunk to get his first basket (assist from Manu Ginobili), finished with two points, two rebounds and a +4 in 10 minutes. Some will expect more, but Gregg Popovich warned against that.
“It’s kind of funny how this all evolves,” Popovich said. “Everybody knows he’s a pretty good player. He was an MVP in Europe and they won this and they won that and he’s experienced. Then all of a sudden it got into, ‘well, you got another big guy who can step out and shoot those threes.’ Well, this kid never shot a three in his life. Where did all this come from?
“This isn’t the next Tim Duncan, this is a blue collar guy who is a good rebounder, a good defender, high quality worker, a blue collar guy. This isn’t a throw him the ball and go score 24 tonight.”
Splitter did some nice things. He fought Griffin for a rebound and ended up with a tie ball. He ran floor well on defense with DeAndre Jordan. He got the ball in the post and a smart kickout to Ginobili in the corner, who whipped it on to Gary Neal for a three.
It was a solid, blue collar performance. And if the Spurs can get that consistently they will be much better off for it.