Tiago Splitter downplays Real Madrid rumors

Kevin C. Cox

There was talk of Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid chasing Tiago Splitter this offseason, but the Spurs center laughed off the rumors as club politics.

Tiago Splitter was rumored to be the coveted by elite Spanish club Real Madrid, but the San Antonio Spurs big man didn't lend those talks much credibility when asked, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The Brazilian has been brilliant for the Spurs in the playoffs: He's started 11 of 14 games -- an ankle injury kept him out of two games and limited his minutes in a third -- averaging 6.8 points on highly efficient shooting, to go along with strong defense and 3.7 rebounds a game. That's led to talk that his upcoming free agency will lead to prominent suitors, both around the NBA and overseas. That included the deep-pocketed European powerhouse, but Splitter played the Madrid talk off as club politics, per the Express-News:

"That’s because they’re having an election," the former MVP of the Spanish ACB League said before Monday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Grizzlies.

Splitter explained that the clubs that own the teams in the Spanish League elect officials every four years, a process that always brings campaign promises.

"Every guy who runs for club president promises to bring in this guy or that guy so they can get elected," he said.

Splitter said he was unaware of the rumors.

Splitter spent nine seasons playing for Saski Baskonia of the Spanish league before opting out of his contract to join the NBA in 2010. He was a bona fide star in Europe, winning two Spanish League championships, a spot on the Euroleague first team in 2008 and taking Spanish MVP and Finals MVP honors in his final season in the league. He returned to Spain briefly during the NBA lockout, playing for Valencia, but if his comments are any indication, he doesn't seriously consider playing in Europe an immediate option.

The 28-year-old is a restricted free agent this season, meaning the Spurs have the option to match any offer from another NBA team. Those restrictions have no bearing on his ability to sign overseas. If he did opt to play for a foreign team, the Spurs would either have the option to retain his rights with a small salary cap hit, or they could renounce his rights and make him an unrestricted free agent should he ever return to the NBA.

Splitter averaged career highs of 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in 2012-13, his third season in the NBA.

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