As the NBA lockout lingers on, players are on their own to find ways to prepare for an abbreviated season that could begin at any time. And as Manu Ginobili seems to be heading to San Antonio to train with Tim Duncan, this week Duncan took the opportunity to take San Antonio Spurs’ Tiago Splitter on his game. Tiago had this to say about the experience:
By all accounts Splitter has some serious talent, but still must learn to adjust his game to the speed and physicality of the NBA. Tim’s experience, and his grasp of the fundamentals of a true NBA post player, make the perfect mentor for a young guy with tremendous potential like Splitter.
Tiago does a lot of things well – his execution of the high pick and roll, his aggressiveness on the boards among them. Where he seriously struggles is in creating offense for himself and taking care of the basketball (also free throws, but Tim is probably not his guy in that area). Splitter is highly prone to being stripped of the basketball as he takes it to the hoop from the block. This is likely a symptom of the fact that he is accustomed to a European style of finesse rather than the much more physical inside play of the NBA.
Tim avoids this scenario in a couple of signature ways.
First, he has a pure turn-around jumper off the glass that he can employ at will to keep the ball out of the hornet’s nest of the paint. Next, when he does want to face up and go inside, he has become adept at dropping the ball down and then yanking it back up with his arms extended to draw easy slap fouls on interior players who like to take swipes at the basketball. By doing this, Tim puts his opponent in foul trouble and makes him increasingly less likely to continue to swipe at the basketball, which in turn provides him more space with which to establish his offensive presence.
These are just two of the skills that Tim could impart to his young Padawan (geeky Star Wars reference) to immediately improve his offensive repertoire.
Tiago most certainly needs to develop a reliable jump shot to make him a dual threat with the basketball. Undoubtedly this is something that will take more than one off-season to accomplish, but Tim makes a great teacher in this arena as well. Tim’s top of the key jumper as well as his bank shot from the wing are what has historically made him so dangerous offensively. Granted Tim has lost a step (or two) as he has aged, but his understanding of the fundamentals of these basic plays make him an excellent mentor for an up and coming talent like Splitter.
I’m sure all Spurs fans hope this relationship continues in the months to come.