VALENCIA (Olympics/Liga Endesa) - When Tiago Splitter was introduced to the media early Monday afternoon as one of the biggest signings ever made by Valencia Basket, there was a very big buzz about basketball in the city again.
Splitter’s arrival from America, where his San Antonio Spurs career has been put on hold by the NBA lockout, has increased the level of expectation for a Valencia team that parted with renowned coach Svetislav Pesic and three players who all competed at the EuroBasket this summer - Dusko Savanovic (Serbia), Omar Cook (Montenegro) and Robertas Javtokas (Lithuania).
The four key men in the team that made a surprise run to the Euroleague Quarter-Finals, have gone to pastures new.
Now there is Splitter, who will remain with La Taronja for the rest of the season, unless the lockout ends.
"Since coming here, I don’t want to know anything about the lockout and the NBA," Splitter said.
"I am focused on this team, and we’ll see."
Splitter, 26, is in the prime of his career.
When the NBA players decided to disband their union after failing to see eye to eye with owners on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Splitter decided he could wait no more.
He needed games, especially when just eight months from now, he’ll compete in one of the most important tournaments of his life.
The 2.12m Splitter will make his Olympic bow for Brazil, who qualified by reaching the FIBA Americas Championship Final in Argentina.
When asked by FIBA.com on Monday about how the London Games factored into his decision to sign for Valencia, he answered: "The national team did a spectacular job this summer and we qualified and it was one of my dreams to play at the Olympics because Brazil had not achieved that in 16 years.
"It was one of the reasons why I came here, because I wanted to play and to have been inactive would not help me on anything."
If ever a player has earned the right to compete at an Olympics, it is Splitter.
He has never said no to representing his country, something he has done since making his senior team bow at the 2002 FIBA World Championship as a 17-year-old.
Brazil came in eighth that year.
Fans in Vitoria that expected him to return and play for Caja Laboral have been left bitterly disappointed.
"I am aware that people in Vitoria were not happy with this decision, but I am very fond of Baskonia, and its people," Splitter said.
“At this moment of my career, I think the most suitable was this option," Splitter said.
"I’m 100% convinced.
"I had other options but this decision was made with my family."
Splitter played for Valencia on Sunday and had 12 points and 10 rebounds in an 86-83 triumph at Murcia.
He will be in the line-up on Tuesday when Valencia host Oostende in the Eurocup.