Due to multiple physical problems, Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter has played only 44 NBA games over the last two years. While not ready to call it quits as a player, the 32-year-old Splitter is exploring alternative options for his future.
You’ve been visiting Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. What was the purpose?
Tiago Splitter: It’s a learning experience with a focus on my career once my playing days are over. My plan is to remain involved in basketball. This is a good way to network, meet new people and get to see basketball from a different perspective.
As of now, the plan is to continue playing, right? That’s the priority?
TS: Yes, I’m still working out. I’m not 100 percent physically, but I’m working out and listening to offers. If I’m satisfied with what they are offering, I will continue playing. If I’m not, next season I would consider going in another direction as far as my career.
Are you listening to offers both from U.S. teams and overseas teams?
TS: No, only offers in the U.S. I want to stay in the NBA. I believe my future is here. I’ve received invitations to training camp, but no formal contract offers. I didn’t think I was ready for that, so I decided to pass and start thinking about a potential coaching career. Pretty much all teams reached out with invitations to camp. I talked to Cleveland, Utah, Clippers… I did some workouts, but no guaranteed offers.
How was seeing your old pals in San Antonio again? There’s still many people from your days there.
TS: It was great. They treated me real well. [Gregg] Popovich opened doors for me to learn and do whatever I want if I chose to be around them. I have no complaints.
As far as talent, that Spurs team was the best you’ve been part of. Was it also the best locker room?
TS: That’s difficult to say, but as far as talent I’m pretty sure it was. Locker room-wise, I have to mention the Brazilian National Team too. I have friends there that I have played with for many, many years. It doesn’t get better than being with your National Team. There was Anderson Varejao, Marcelo Huertas and so many other guys.
You mentioned earlier that you were not at 100 percent physically. I read that not long ago you were feeling pain even doing very basic things like sitting in your car. Is the pain still there?
TS: It’s not at that level, but there’s some pain that I have to deal with. It’s like normal for me now. Mentally, having all these injuries has been tough because you want to do certain things, but your body doesn’t allow you to do them. You have to adjust and… well, sometimes it’s pretty hard. At the same time, it also makes you stronger and makes you learn new things and makes you see basketball in a different light. You play differently and think about the game in a different manner when you’re playing. Plus, when you have good days, you cherish those moments and learn to put value in them. It’s not easy to always feel that way, [but] feeling some pain is absolutely normal.
While recovering, you played in the D-League a bit. How was that for a veteran player like you?
TS: I took it as practice and a way to prove that I was able to be on the court. It’s not like I asked the Sixers for that, but it was a way for me to say, “I’m here, I want to play.” And I didn’t mind it happened in the D-League.
If your playing career ended here, would you be OK with it looking back at all the things you’ve accomplished?
TS: Yes, yes. No question. I have no complaints. I started early at age 14-15 and have been around for a lot of years. If it also comes to an end earlier than usual, I would still be very happy with what I did. My regret is that I was never able to win the Euroleague or a major title with the National Team. Other than that, I’m very pleased with everything.
You see these kids going from Europe to the NBA at a very young age now. You went there at 25. Do you think the timing was right or would have gone earlier on second thought?
TS: Each player is different. In my case or with [Luis] Scola and [Manu] Ginobili, we made it to the NBA a little later than usual. [Dirk] Nowitzki and Pau [Gasol] came here early on and had great success. What I mean is, it depends on the player. Perhaps if I came to the NBA two years earlier, I would have accomplished more in my career, but it is what it is and I can’t complain.
You won titles both in the NBA and Spain, but you experienced super tough losses too. That championship series vs. Miami and a Spanish League final loss vs. Real Madrid in the final seconds of Game 5. Which one was the toughest?
TS: Losing to Real Madrid, no question. We had Game 5 in our pocket, playing in front of our home crowd. That was really difficult. But those experiences made me stronger. If not for those losses, perhaps I wouldn’t have won those other titles later on. Maybe if we don’t lose to Miami in 2013, we don’t go to the 2014 season with that motivation. It’s not like you need to lose to find motivation, but I’m pretty sure the tough losses made me stronger.