By Mike Monroe
In just 14 minutes and 36 seconds of his first preseason game with the Spurs, rookie guard Nando De Colo established himself as a fan favorite Saturday with some of the slickest passing seen at the ATT Center since Manu Ginobili’s rookie season 10 years ago.
He also impressed some teammates.
According to Stephen Jackson, De Colo is reminiscent of another fan favorite.
“Nando,” Jackson said, “is another Manu Ginobili.”
Officially, De Colo had only three assists in the Spurs’ 106-77 victory over Italian team Montepaschi Siena, but he was denied at least three more because his teammates weren’t prepared for some of his best passes.
“We must just need to practice together and to know each other,” De Colo said. “All the team knows what they must do. I am the only new one on the team so I must do my job with respect for the team and we will see.”
The highlight of De Colo’s NBA preseason debut was a no-look wraparound to forward Derrick Brown for a fourth-quarter dunk. He made only one of three shots, but also had three steals in little more than a quarter’s worth of court time.
“It was the first time, preseason game, and it was great,” De Colo said. “Everybody played. I’m very happy to be here and working to do something this season.”
Splitter sits: Center Tiago Splitter missed the preseason opener with an injury. The 27-year-old from Brazil has been battling back spasms for the last three days.
The third-year big man missed much of his rookie training camp in 2009-10 with a calf injury.
“Tiago’s getting better, but he’s going to miss the beginning of training camp again, unfortunately,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s been a habit for him. (Head athletic trainer) Will (Sevening) thinks he’ll practice on Monday.”
Splitter’s absence was an opportunity for backup big men Josh Powell — a 6-foot-9 veteran of 315 games over six NBA seasons with the Mavericks, Pacers, Warriors, Clippers, Lakers and Hawks — and 10-year veteran Eddy Curry.
Powell scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds in 17 minutes. Curry also had seven points, with two rebounds, in the final 9:18 of the game.
Still Spurs property: If Montepaschi big man Viktor Sanikidze’s name sounds vaguely familiar to Spurs fans, it’s because the team acquired his NBA rights in a draft-day trade in 2004. Chosen by Atlanta in the second round (42nd overall), the Spurs still own the rights the 26-year-old from the Republic of Georgia.
Sanikidze, a 6-7 forward, scored five points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.