Tiago Splitter: The Last Hope For The Silver and Black

Andrew TolanCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2010

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 02:  Tiago Splitter of Tau Ceramica thanks his fans at the end of the Euroleague Final Four Semi Final basketball match between Tau Ceramica and CSKA Moscow at the Palacio de Deportes on May 2, 2008 in Madrid, Spain. CSKA Moscow won the match 83-79.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

As someone who has followed the Spurs to such an extreme that I have spent six years of my life searching for a Vinny Del Negro jersey back when my childhood team shared the same colors as Taco Cabana, I have become accustomed to laughing at the insanely terrible draft picks made by NBA franchises.

The Spurs' draft formula is rather simple: wait until the end of the first, or second round to pick a guy nobody knows about, wait for said player to blossom in to an All-Star, make the other 29 NBA GMs and their devoted fans angry.

The result of the aforementioned formula: a French point guard snagged at the end of the first round under a shroud of obscurity that is now an All-Star, Finals MVP and husband of Eva Longoria and an All-Star Argentinian shooting guard that thwarts opponents chances in the fourth quarter of the biggest games with clutch performances while also thwarting bats attempts to disrupt Halloween games at the AT&T Center.

Add in steals like George Hill, late first round pick out of the longest-named school in the history of civilization Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, as well as Dejuan Blair, who went from having no ACLs to being the steal of the draft, and you can say the Spurs have an idea what they are doing when it comes to the NBA draft.

This begs the question: who is the Spurs next steal, who is the guy that is going to continue the Spurs lineage of draft day steals?  The city of San Antonio collectively waits with baited breath for that tradition to continue with Tiago Splitter.

Splitter might have embarked on one of the most unusually long journeys to the NBA of anyone entering the league this season.  As a player that has been on the NBA radar for over half a decade, it seems weird to refer to Splitter as a rookie.  Splitter declared and withdrew for the draft three times before being drafted in 2007 by the San Antonio Spurs with the 28th pick. 

Rather than coming straight over to the NBA, Splitter signed an extension with his Spanish team Saski Baskonia that would land him more money than a rookie contract in the NBA.  If you were a Spurs fan in 2008 the move saddened you; if you are a Spurs fan in 2010, the move shows Splitter's amazing business acumen. 

Splitter is a nearly 7-feet tall behemoth (superlative added through the silver and black blood running through the ebb of my fingers) who is coming off a Spanish League MVP award in 2010 and a gold medal in 2009 with the Brazilian national team at the FIBA Americas championships.  The accolades for Splitter's international career are almost as endless as the amount of San Antonio Spurs' fans excited to see Splitter suit up and add to the lore of Spurs' draft day steals.

Looking at the Spurs' future through a grounded sense of realism, Tiago Splitter needs to live up to the tremendous hype the city of San Antonio has heaped on to his Brazilian shoulders.  Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are one season of H-E-B commercials from being classified as over-the-hill rather than grizzled veterans and Tony Parker has one year left before he enters free agency and can make his own "decision."  A "decision" that will hopefully not see his talents taken to South Beach through a one-hour television special.

As the 2010-2011 season approaches, Spurs' fans hope that one more time they can watch a draft day steal turn in to an NBA All-Star and again elevate the franchise in to a championship contender.  Tiago Splitter may not be the next opportunity for Spurs' fans to laugh in the collective faces of the NBA world, but one of the last opportunities for Spurs' fans to have a draft day steal aid the team in a quest toward the NBA championship for the foreseeable future. 

As I continue to search eBay for Vinny Del Negro jerseys, count me in.