|San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama, the top pick in the NBA Draft, scored a team-high 27 points with a game-high 12 rebounds in an NBA Summer League loss to Portland / © AFP|
Victor Wembanyama, the NBA’s top draft pick, showed improvement Sunday in his second game with San Antonio, scoring 27 points in an 85-80 NBA Summer League loss to Portland.
The 19-year-old French center, who stands 7-foot-4 (2.24m), has been hyped as the NBA’s best prospect since LeBron James 20 years ago, but had received a wake-up call in his first game against NBA talent.
This time, though, Wembanyama grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, blocked three shots and made a steal in just under 27 minutes on the court.
“It’s just me getting comfortable with myself and my body,” he said. “Before today I had two practices and one game. I was just getting going.
“It’s normal to get better every game. I had so much stuff going on with the draft and the game, so it makes sense.”
Wembanyama sank 9-of-14 shots from the floor, 2-of-4 from 3-point range, and 7-of-12 from the free throw line.
“He was a tough matchup for us,” said Portland guard Michael Devoe, who scored a game-high 29 points.
“We just wanted to be physical with him and try to make him make tough shots over us. He did a great job but I think defensively we did a great job too.”
In his debut on Friday, Wembanyama struggled with nine points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists in just over 27 minutes as the Spurs beat Charlotte 76-68. He made only 2-of-13 shots from the floor and just 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
“In the past month I don’t think basketball was 50% of my schedule,” Wembanyama said. “I can’t stand it. I know it’s a special moment in my life but I’m glad it’s over.
“I just want to hoop, work out, lift, because this is my life. It just makes me better for the future.”
Against the Trail Blazers, Wembanyama looked more comfortable with the Spurs offensive schemes, something he said was a problem in his first game, and was able to make dunks and grab attacking rebounds.
“I wish we would have won the game,” he said. “I think I could have done more to help my teammates win this game. We’ve got to keep learning.”
Wembanyama sank a late 3-pointer to lift the Spurs within 79-78 with 1:58 remaining, but Devoe answered with a 3-pointer for Portland and the Spurs never came so close again.
“They could see us developing,” Wembanyama said. “In the fourth we were really dominating. It shows the real personality of the team.”
The Summer League, featuring young prospects trying to earn a place on NBA rosters, marks Wembanyama’s first games in a Spurs uniform and a hint of what he might face against more veteran competition when the NBA regular season begins in October.
“Here players are just flying. There’s more pushing on the ground,” Wembanyama said. “Creatively it’s just the best in the world. Way more talent. I like this better.”
– Life-changing months –
Wembanyama said after his first practice that he wasn’t going to play more than two Summer League games. The Spurs’ next play Tuesday against Washington and face Detroit on Friday.
“I need to sit down with the Spurs to see what the next months are going to be like, when to go on vacation, when to start back working out, where I’m going to practice,” he said.
“We’ve got two or three great months that are coming. They are going to change my life.”
The Spurs announced Saturday that 74-year-old coach and president of basketball operations Gregg Popovich has signed a new five-year contract with the club.
He’s the longest-tenured coach in US sports, has guided the Spurs to five NBA titles and the US team to Tokyo Olympic gold.
“It’s a sign from him and from the franchise that they care about the project,” Wembanyama said. “There’s something great starting.”