Spurs Brasil interview Tiago Splitter
Translated by Juliano Medeiros
Tiago Splitter reported in last Monday (July 4th) to the Brazilian National Team, coached by Rúben Magnano. The squad will start its preparations for the Mar Del Plata Pre-Olympic Tourney that will take place in September. Last Tuesday, the players had to take routine medical exams, and Spurs Brasil used the opportunity to interview the young center.
He talked about his first season with the San Antonio Spurs, the lockout and the expectations for the tourney in Argentina, which can put Brazil back in the Olympics after a 16 year drought.
Spurs Brasil – What can you say about your first season with the San Antonio Spurs?
Tiago Splitter – I started the season with an injury and was feeling worn out after my last season in Spain. After that I played in the World Championship, and I couldn´t perform at 100%. That had a big impact in my preseason and my injury got worse right before the start of my career in the NBA. Fortunately I could recover and was able to help the team at some points during the season. Maybe I didn´t have the minutes I wanted, but it´s understandable in my role as a rookie, playing for a conservative team, being coached by Popovich. I think it´s a pretty normal situation and I respect his decision. I hope I can keep improving. I learned many things on and off the court and I hope I can become a better player next season, be more active in games and help the Spurs win more games.
SB – How does it feel to work with Popovich? How is your relationship with him on and off the court?
TS – On the court he demands a lot. He´s relentless when it comes to basketball. I think that´s normal and needed, having a leader like him on the team. Off the court, he´s awesome. Everyone treated me very well, not just him, they´ve been great to me since day one and I feel very happy in San Antonio. Feels like home. I hope I can live there for many more years.
SB – How is your relationship with Tim Duncan? Does he try to teach you something? What did you learn from him this season?
TS – He´s one of the great players in NBA History, there´s no arguing that. For me, it was a pleasure to play with him and learn from the way he carries himself on and off the court. I think we´re even similar when it comes to the way we approach the game. I hope I can count on him at least for one more year, before his contract ends. He´s obviously not a 22 year old anymore, and he may be past his prime, but he´s still got a lot of game, has one of the highest basketball IQ I´ve ever seen and I hope he can help us this year with all his experience. Help not just me, but the whole team.
SB – What about Manu Ginobili? He will most likely play in the Pre-Olympic Tourney and you will have to face-off against a teammate. How do you feel about it?
TS – He´s a really special player. I think he´s the only player in the world to have won the Euroleague, the NBA and the Olympics. So he´s very tough to stop. But me and Rúben (Magnano) have worked a lot with him and other Argentinian players, so we know what we´re up against and how hard it will be to beat them on their home floor.
SB – How can this experience with the national team help in San Antonio? Did the Spurs try to change your mind? How does the organization handle a situation in which one of their players wants to play for his national team?
TS – I think nobody really likes it when their players go play with their national teams. But they respected my decision, they know I have a strong desire to play for my country. I think everybody is aware of the situation we have there with the lockout, so this is also a way for me to keep playing, which is much better than just training alone in some court. So playing in important, tough games will also help in my career.
SB – With the lockout been declared, one polemic question was the players’ insurance. How did you solve the situation regarding your insurance to be here with your national team?
TS – Well… I won´t talk about the way it was solved, but everything´s ok now. That´s what matters and that´s why I´m here. We’ve been a long time looking for and the problem was solved.
SB – With the lockout, no one knows what will happen next. Is there any chance players will really go play overseas? What do the players know about this?
TS – We really don´t know when the owners and players will settle things. There´s no certainty. Everything´s up in the air. Of course it´s possible for guys to go play in Europe, in Brazil, in China or wherever. But my intentions, as of now, is to continue being a player for the San Antonio Spurs. I think they waited a lot for me after they drafted me and I want to respect that, I want to keep playing there. I will work on my own, after the Pre-Olympics, to remain in shape for the next season, whenever it starts.
SB – In the Pre-Olympic Tourney, what are your expectations for your own performance? You and Marcelinho Huertas will probably be the main players in the team, and will have the responsibility of leading the squad. How will you cope with that pressure? Is there still some chemistry remaining between you guys from the time you were teammates in Spain?
TS – Absolutely. I think we have a lot of chemistry on the court. About the pressure of leading the team, I think it´s natural. As you get older, it happens. In the past I was like the 12th man on the team, but now there´s a different weight on my shoulders when it comes to the National Team and I try to be cool about it. We play in a team sport, but it´s obvious every player know his role on the court, and I know what mine will be. So we will work together with our coach to develop a capable team and get in a good shape for the Pre-Olympics, and have everybody knowing their roles on the court.
Listen here the original audio (in Portuguese) of the interview