Surgery could force Splitter to miss start of next season

Tiago Splitter’s season-ending surgery may force him to miss at least the beginning of next season.

The Hawks reserve center will undergo surgery on his sore right hip Feb. 25 in New York. Splitter said the recovery will be “eight months, at least.” An eight-month recovery would mean Splitter would not be able to return until near the end of October, the start of the NBA season. It will also force him to miss the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in his native Brazil.

Splitter would not reveal Wednesday what will be done during in the surgical procedure.

“It’s very hard,” Splitter said. “I just got here this season and I wanted to help this team more. I wasn’t able to perform 100 percent, that’s for sure. I’ve been feeling this pain, you guys know, for some time. We tried several techniques and treatments. It ended up being I need the surgery. I hope it goes fast and I’m ready to play again.”

Splitter said he plans to remain around the team and help in any way he can off the court – including helping young centers Mike Muscala and Edy Tavares.

Splitter said it was difficult to make the decision to have surgery but he has been in pain for most of the season.

“As an athlete, as a player, we face pains here and there,” Splitter said. “Some pains you can manage it and just go with it. It was just like that at the beginning of the season. I had all the pains, everybody has those. But by November, I would say, it started to get worse and worse. Even sitting in the car or walking at home or sleeping was horrible. It’s been long and we tried a lot of stuff.”

Splitter, 31, missed the final six games before the All-Star break. He also missed seven games with the injury in November and December and it nagged him since. He also missed four games with a sore right calf.

Splitter appeared in 36 games, including two starts, and averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16.1 minutes.

“That’s a big blow,” starting center Al Horford said. “That is a big blow for us. Defensively, he gave us so much. Just his feel and his ability. He fought. He wasn’t healthy and he still came out and tried to play and help us out. We are just hoping that he has a good recovery and that he’s able to play at a high level again.”

Muscala has filled in for Splitter over the past six games. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Muscala, Tavares and others will get increased playing time in Splitter’s absence.

“(Mike Muscala) has had a great opportunity for the last (six) games that Tiago hasn’t played,” Budenholzer said. “I’m real happy with the way he played and performed. He’s going to get a lot more opportunity. Mike Scott may play a little more. Edy has gotten some minutes in some games. Over the course of the last (27) games there is going to be opportunity and moments when we need Edy. We are fortunate that we have Al and Paul (Millsap) and they may have to take on more than they have already.”

Splitter said Budenholzer joked before Wednesday’s practice that the team has another assistant coach. Count Millsap as one who will listen to Splitter during the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs.

“We lost his body but it’s his mind and his championship pedigree that is still on this team,” Millsap said.

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