Alright, I’ll admit. I’m a fan. First, and foremost.
Tiago Splitter’s arrival has been so long in the waiting and so desperately needed, that patience can easily run its course. And as much as one tries to remove themselves enough to think of clear mind and sound rationale, fandom has a way of rearing its ugly head. I get it. Guil-ty-as-charged.
So with this new found outlook and a little better objectivity, the question becomes much clearer:
Has Coach Pop bust out the crock pot?
It’s understandable that the process and acclimation period would take a little longer for any first-time NBA player, even if said player is a 25-year-old Spanish League champion and MVP of both its Finals and regular season. It’s more than understandable that it might take a little longer getting up to speed if that player suffered an injury during his first training camp upon making the jump from overseas. There’s absolutely nothing surprising—at least, one shouldn’t be surprised—that Splitter’s insertion into the rotation and into the NBA way of life would take a little more time – whether there was an injury or not.
But there’s taking it slow and there’s taking it slow. It’s one thing to ease a player into the game, into the terminology, into all that it is to be an NBA basketball player. It’s quite another to in the middle of that process find yourself saying it’s inappropriate for a player of Splitter’s caliber to play – Tiago Splitter is, and represents more to this team, than a situational player. This is a player who’s talent allows for a team to dictate match-ups not be dictated to.
Prior to Splitter’s career-best line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he had received to DNP-CDs, the first coming against Chicago and the second against Utah. They were two teams with formidable frontlines and one could easily find themselves believing represented a great opportunity for Splitter to play.
It was not to be, though, and it’s not as unforgivable or unconscionable as knee-jerk fandom can allow you to believe. Yes, Splitter could have played. And, yes, the San Antonio Spurs probably would have been—at a minimum—no worse for the wear. But Chicago went smaller with Deng playing the 4 (power-forward) and with a big road game against Utah—the first game of a back-to-back—fresh legs and the friendly confines of the AT&T Center would seem to serve the team and Splitter well.
As much as one can rationalize the logic and find some kind of method to the madness though, in the end, it’s still, well, madness: finding reason to not play one of your better players isn’t all that sound a premise. Unless…
If your working from the premise that you’ve got a talented, crucial piece to the puzzle being a first-year NBA player, someone making the cultural, professional and athletic jump from overseas, someone whom in the process of that jump got tripped up with an injury before being able to take flight, someone that also happens to be coming off a long summer of National Team play and has had a history of nagging injuries slowing him down at times in his career, more method seems to materialize than madness. Maybe—just maybe—the Coach may be onto something; a big picture can’t be painted with one single broad brush.
So while we see the flashes of pick-and-roll brilliance, the stellar position D and the potential of Splitter to lift this Spurs team back atop the league as one of its missing, crucial pieces, we may just have to bring the fervor to a simmer – getting the minutes to both learn the NBA game and gain the respect of its officials seems to be taking a backseat to making sure the 6-11 Brazilian is up to speed, healthy and rolling, by the time this regular season ends.
Do you smell what the Pop is cooking?
Yeah, yeah I did . . .
Follow Nick Kapsis @Project_Kap