Tiago Splitter understood that the San Antonio Spurs’ pursuit of a marquee free agent could mean he would be traded, but the 30-year-old heard the news while at the beach.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News notes Splitter said was on a Brazilian waterfront when he received a call from head coach Gregg Popovich, who alerted the center he was now a member of the Atlanta Hawks.
"“I expected it. I don’t say I love it, but I expected it. … I knew the changes they wanted to do with this franchise. I knew they wanted to bring a new superstar to the team. The way they could do that was to trade somebody.”"
It was an unfortunate situation, but money isn’t unlimited.
The Spurs drafted Splitter in the first round of the 2007 draft, and he debuted in the silver and black three years later. Splitter spent five seasons in San Antonio, establishing himself as an above-average rim-protector and earning a $36 million contract in 2013.
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However, that hefty deal was one significant obstacle to the Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge. Without the $8.5 million salary on the books, the franchise was able to successfully pursue the star power forward.
Per McDonald, Splitter said once he accepted what happened, he realized Atlanta was the best landing spot. Mike Budenholzer, who was an assistant coach in San Antonio for three of Splitter’s five-year tenure, is now at the helm of the Hawks.
Splitter is no longer a starter but will fill a valuable role off the bench. He’s the direct backup for Al Horford, though Splitter could complement the All-Star center in Atlanta.
And—while not perfectly identical—that isn’t be much of a change from playing alongside an elder Tim Duncan in San Antonio.