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NBA PM: Splitter Discusses Surgery Decision

Atlanta’s Tiago Splitter explains why he had season-ending hip surgery and provides an update as he recovers.

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Updated 3 days ago on
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Splitter Discusses Difficult Decision to Have Surgery

Last month, Atlanta Hawks big man Tiago Splitter announced that he would be undergoing surgery on his right hip. He is expected to be out for approximately seven more months as he recovers from the surgery.

Immediately, some fans reacted negatively since they thought it was an elective surgery and they were disappointed the Hawks wouldn’t have Splitter available in the playoffs. However, it’s always important to remember that NBA players are people too. Splitter has done a great job of explaining his decision to have surgery and documenting this process so that fans see exactly what he’s going through and how hard this has been on him.

Splitter, who had the surgery on February 25, said that this “was the hardest decision of my career and even more for someone like me who never had any injury take me to the operating room.”

But he explained that he “had to make this difficult decision that involves more than this season or the Olympics dream in my country [Brazil], but it reaches my personal health and my career.”

“I’ve been fighting since the beginning of this season with severe pain in the hip that made me play several times at my limit,” Splitter wrote on Instagram in Feb. “I never resigned myself to be off the court for any reason. I always loved to play, either for my team or the Brazilian national team. But these pains increased and [became] increasingly unbearable. I did all the treatments and therapies available, however nothing solved the pain I felt, and it only increased with every single game.”

The 31-year-old played in 36 games for the Hawks – his first season with the team – and he averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Statistically, this was Splitter’s worst season since his rookie year with the San Antonio Spurs back in 2010-11. Knowing that he was playing through severe pain helps explain his drop in production – along with playing fewer minutes (16.1 per game) and adjusting to a new team.

Now that Splitter has had the surgery and started the recovery process, he wrote an article for The Cycle to provide an update on his status.

“I take my responsibility to perform at a high level each night very seriously,” Splitter wrote. “I tried everything I could to get back on the court this season… anti-inflammatories, injections, physical therapy. These are the treatments all NBA players get to stay healthy. But nothing worked and the pain continued. I couldn’t play the way I wanted to and it began to impact me at home. My activity with my kids was way down and I suffered from many restless nights. I couldn’t bend down to put my socks on.

“So I started doing my research. I spoke with everyone I could find inside the NBA and out, including multiple doctors, the Hawks medical staff, and people who had experienced hip pain during and after their careers, including Ronny Turiaf, Jason Kidd and even someone named Travis Andre Ross, who trains for American Ninja Warrior (I contacted him through Instagram!). Everyone was supportive and passionate about attacking the problem. The surgery [I had] is designed specifically to allow me to return to a NBA level of physical performance.”

Turiaf told Basketball Insiders that he was happy to help Splitter with his recovery.

“Tiago reached out to me and I was very happy to share my experience with him about the rehab process and what’s ahead of him,” Turiaf said. “We had a fair deal: I supported with the hip surgery and he helped me discover Rio de Janeiro when I went there. Worked out well for both parties!”

The hope for Splitter is that after this surgery, he’ll look more like the player who became a key piece for the Spurs during his five seasons with the organization than the player who struggled for much of this campaign.

The timing is rough for Splitter since he will miss Atlanta’s playoff run and the Rio Olympics, which are in his home country of Brazil. He was the first Brazilian-born player to win an NBA championship and he was really looking forward to representing his country in Rio.

“The toughest part of the decision is missing the Olympics,” Splitter wrote. “Brazil has been dreaming of this moment for a long time and to have the games in my home country is really special for every Brazilian athlete. It hurts that I can’t play, but my Brazilian brothers in the NBA have been really supportive.”

Splitter shared a video of him walking as part of his rehab and he seems determined to be better than ever when he gets back on the court.

“It’s crazy that I made it here [from Brazil] and now I must keep going,” Splitter wrote. “This is what drives me. I am excited that I am getting better.”

Splitter is under contract through next season with the Hawks (on a $8,550,000 salary) and then he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017.

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Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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