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The Spurs' decision to re-sign Tiago Splitter is paying off

The Spurs' decision to re-sign Tiago Splitter is paying off

Posted by Laura Zúñiga on March 28, 2014

It's early July 2013, and a moratorium hovers over the league's day-to-day practices. The 2012-13 season has just reached its climax and, even armed with a 36-19 record across the final five months, San Antonio was narrowly surpassed at the finish line. Before entering a summer of somber self-reflection, the Spurs' organization needed address the state of their cavalry. The words cap space,  present a possible fork in the road in the team's immediate future. There's only one problem: R.C. Buford and the managerial staff are looking at a different map. A fork in the road? For all intents and purposes, this is a one-way street.

On the second day of the month, the front office dismissed the external white noise, and reached a verbal agreement in principle to re-sign Tiago Splitter.

There's an understated beauty to continuity. It, like trust and chemistry, is something that must be developed, and cannot be acquired. R.C. Buford knows this. While a fashionable alternative may have presented itself (hoarding cap space, preserving future flexibility, and beginning to remodel the franchise), this past offseason was one of poetic simplicity.

These Spurs are a carefully crafted ornament, and one that can be restored, but not recreated. So, the front office prefers to offer an occasional coat of rustproofing, ironing out the kinks, and dusting down any minor blemishes. After that, the ornament stays the same -- and it's safely stored away in a glass case.

Retaining Tiago Splitter is only one of many examples of this behavior, and it is a telling aspect of the Spurs' subculture that was addressed by Eric Freeman of Yahoo! Sports immediately after the decision:

This [defensive] ability speaks to another rationale behind the move: that Splitter, who's only ever known San Antonio as an NBA player, allows the Spurs to pick up where they left off this spring next season.

This ability that Freeman refers to shines through in the San Antonio system's fluidity. It's a contributing factor as to why, during this unprecedented 15-game winning streak, the Spurs have been 21.0 points per 100 possessions better off with Splitter on the floor. That's absurd. With the Brazilian on hand, San Antonio has blitzed opponents by a margin that is the best of any starter, and one point per 100 possessions better than the next player on the list (Danny Green). It's a level of defensive diligence, understanding, and execution that won't always be recorded, either.

Splitter, as a testament to his capabilities and versatility, isn't hesitant to push out to the perimeter. Take this possession from the win over the Mavs on March 2, for example.

Dallas ran a set play, with Dirk setting a high pick at the 45° angle. After this, he curled off to the right and followed the baseline trajectory. The response? Splitter showed hard on the initial action, obstructing José Calderon (a 45.5% three point shooter) twenty-five feet from the basket.

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