Monday, July 12, 2010

Tiago Splitter: San Antonio Spur

Reigning Black

Signed, sealed, delivered. Tiago Splitter is officially a Spur.

Taken 28th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Splitter's become both the bane and hope of Spurs fans' existence over the years. But now that he's here, that bane seems a distant memory.

The 6-11 forward-center was officially introduced today -- alongside Spurs General Manager, R.C. Buford -- as the 25-year-old Brazilian showed off his new number (22) and expressed his excitement and gratitude for a day he'd always hoped would come.

"I'm very happy to be a San Antonio Spurs," Splitter said. It's been three years for me and San Antonio to wait for this moment. I'm very happy. I knew that I want to be part of the NBA, part of the San Antonio Spurs. You never know when."

Those three years were the sole reason for any angst amongst Spurs fans. They knew Splitter could be of great help to the Spurs and they simply wanted him stateside as quickly as possible -- the Spurs had the front court help Duncan's needed for years but couldn't utilize it.

No longer.

Fresh off winning both the Spanish League's regular season and Finals MVP and leading his Caja Laboral Vitoria team to it's second ACB championship in the process (averaging 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds), Splitter isn't the typical rookie. While Spurs fans were lamenting his presence overseas, Splitter was honing his game -- this is a player that many an expert saw with limited upside and a game that had perhaps peaked and plateaued.

"We're very fortunate to be adding one of the best players not playing in the NBA," Spurs General Manager R.C. said as he introduced Splitter.

Three years later, Splitter is widely regarded as the best center in Europe and even its best player by some. Splitter's come into his own, accomplished just about all he could accomplish, and now it's time to take on his next big challenge: the NBA.

"I decided I want to come here. I feel I'm right in the moment," Splitter responded when asked if he thought about staying overseas instead of signing with the Spurs. "Three years ago when San Antonio drafted me I knew it was impossible for me to come here. I signed a new contract in Europe. I improved my game a lot."

That new number of his -- 22 -- wasn't such a hard decision for Splitter. He knew that 21 he'd worn for years in Europe wasn't really an option.

"I told R.C. and Pop, when I started wearing 21 it was because I love the way Tim Duncan plays. He was one of my idols. Now that they change my number, I don't care," Splitter enjoying the moment.

And when it couldn't get any better, it did. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, league sources have told him Splitter signed a deal that will pay him $10.9 million over three years, with a starting salary of $3.4 million in his first season -- that leaves a little more than $2.3 million ($2.365 -- if the $3.4 million figure is correct) left of the Spurs' Mid-Level exception for them to play with.

"If I stayed in Spain I could have made more money," Splitter replied. "But this is my moment."

But on this day, it was about fulfilling a dream and one's promise. It was about seeing a player -- one who's become a bit of an urban legend with Spurs fans -- finally materialize and become a reality. It was a day to welcome the newest Spur -- something Splitter's thought about, viewed and admired from afar.

"They're the team since I was a kid," Splitter said. "I know them very well. I'm very happy to be here in San Antonio. For sure we're going to have fun."

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