Tiago Splitter’s back injury freeing up time for veterans Curry, Powell

By Quixem Ramirez

Apr 24, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) works against Atlanta Hawks center Josh Powell (12) in the first half of game four of the first round of the NBA playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Magic 88-85. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter missed Wednesday’s intrasquad scrimmage and the teams preseason opener, a 29-point route over Montepaschi Siena of the Italian league, with back spasms.

Gregg Popovich said that Splitter will miss the start of training camp. Splitter is officially day-to-day though he will likely practice with the team on Monday according to head athletic trainer Will Sevening.

Splitter’s recent injury is unfortunate as he is expected to perform a valuable role behind Tim Duncan. Not only was Splitter one of the five most efficient shooters in the league, according to true shooting percentage, but his nifty pick-and-roll game perfectly accentuates the Spurs’ offense. He scored 1.32 points per possession on possessions as the roll man, good for fifth in the league.

But, in reality, his injury is not completely worrisome; it does give veteran camp additions Eddy Curry and Josh Powell valuable rotation time. Popovich rotated 18 players in the win over Siena — a number that is likely to drop as the season draws near — and Powell, especially, benefited from the extra playing time.

He scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds in 17 minutes. Curry initially struggled but he still finished with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in nine minutes.

The final roster spot is essentially up for the taking and along with forward Derrick Brown, Curry and Powell seem to be in good position. This won’t be a high usuage role, obviously, but the Spurs still stand to benefit from an extra body that can be productive.

This is not to say that having Splitter injured is a good thing. His long-term health will be imperative. Without the Brazilian, the Spurs frontcourt is not as dangerous. At the very least, while Splitter heals from his minor injury, San Antonio will be able to discern who makes the team better, top-to-bottom.