Splitter still learning subtleties of Hawks’ system

There are differences, although subtle, between the systems of the Hawks and the Spurs. Make no mistake.

Tiago Splitter currently works in those refined areas of the game of basketball.

The Hawks acquired the reserve center this summer after he spent his first five NBA seasons with the Spurs. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was groomed for 19 seasons in the Spurs organization. However, he has put his own signature on the Hawks since he took over two-plus seasons ago. Splitter is still learning his way here.

“There are nights when I’m like yeah, he’s starting to figure it out,” Budenholzer said Friday morning. “There might be another night when he’s still not sure. I personally know the subtleties between the differences between San Antonio and us. Everyone just assumes it’s the exact same thing. It’s not. He is a player who lives in the subtleties.”

Splitter was supposed to give the Hawks a more traditional center, one who could rebound and protect the rim. His early numbers are not what they were with the Spurs.

With the Hawks, Splitter has appeared in 19 games (one start) and averaged 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.4 minutes. He has two double-digit scoring game, a 10-point effort against the Knicks in the second game of the season and a 10-point effort against the 76ers Wednesday. Last season with the Spurs, he appeared in 52 games (35 starts) and averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.8 minutes. He had 16 double-digit scoring games. It’s not that the Hawks were expecting a scoring threat but Splitter’s number are down.

“I don’t think he is playing as much for us,” Budenholzer said. “At the end of the day, he was starting most of the last three or four years. I don’t think he was necessarily finishing (games) but he got a consistent five, six, seven minute more chunk than he is getting here.”

Splitter has missed eight games due to a sore right hip. That has limited his growth in the Hawks’ system. Splitter said he is getting more comfortable. For him, the adjustment is as much about playing with new teammates than learning a new system.

“It’s not the same, of course,” Splitter said. “First of all, you have different talents and guys who do different things. You have to accommodate the system a little bit to the players that you have. The principle is the same but we have different plays and different players doing that.

“I’m feeling good. I get everything, where I have to be on the boards and what I have to do to help this team win games.”

Splitter did a lot of the little things to help the Hawks pull out a 109-101 victory at the Celtics Friday night. He had three points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 18 minutes. He played just 38 seconds in the fourth quarter as fellow big men Paul Millsap (15 points) and Al Horford (eight) teamed with point guard Dennis Schroder (nine) to score 32 of the Hawks’ 38 fourth-quarter points.

Following the game, Budenholzer praised those details from Splitter that don’t show up in a box score.

“I thought Tiago was good,” Budenholzer said after the game. “He affected several shots in the paint, whether he gets a blocked shot or not, his presence and his understanding of verticality. I thought he made some good screens and some plays around the basket. He’s starting to feel more comfortable.”

Budenholzer said he is confident that the Splitter will increase his understanding of the subtleties of the Hawks’ system with each game. Splitter’s shooting percentage of .512 (42 of 82) is down from .558 (169 of 303) last season.

“He is incredible smart,” Budenholzer said. “It just takes a little time to get really good with the nuances. When you add somebody like him you think he knows everything. He does. But then there is another level of understanding and knowledge that I think he’ll get to. You see those in flashes. We all want to see it more. He does. I think it will come.”