2024 Free Agency

Chris Paul excited for new chapter in San Antonio alongside Victor Wembanyama

The 12-time All-Star point guard has guided young squads before. But never one with a player like Victor Wembanyama.

NBA TV analyzes how Chris Paul will be able to maximize Victor Wembanyama's impact.

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SAN ANTONIO – Point guard Chris Paul said Tuesday the presence of Victor Wembanyama “definitely didn’t hurt” San Antonio in its free agency pitch, adding “there’s probably no player everybody in the league talks about after the game” more than the 20-year old Frenchman.

The hope now for Paul, 39, is to play the role of catalyst alongside Wembanyama in generating conversation about a potential Spurs revival. The 12-time All-Star officially signed a one-year deal Sunday with San Antonio as one of two vets tasked with leading a Spurs squad that tipped last season as the youngest in the NBA (average age 23.52).

Paul and veteran forward Harrison Barnes flew into San Antonio on Monday, before taking part in a weight training session Tuesday morning ahead of introductions to the media.

“I’m not here to say we are going to do this or do that,” Paul said Tuesday. “I think we’ve all got to get together and make sure we understand what our goals are and what we’re going to do to try to help each other get there. I have only one goal every time and that’s to win every game. I don’t think you should play anything if you’re just doing it for sh— and giggles.”

Paul, who ranks third all-time in assists (11,894), fits the team’s most pressing offseason need. The Spurs drafted their potential point guard of the future in No. 4 pick Stephon Castle. But Paul could serve as a bridge until Castle is deemed ready, in addition to playing the role of crafty facilitator for Wembanyana with a treasure trove of veteran knowledge for the young Spurs to sop up.

Over 19 years in the NBA, Paul has already taken on similar roles with young teams alongside budding stars such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City (2019-20), as well as Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges in Phoenix (2020-23). Paul says he learned as much from the aforementioned trio as he taught them.

That’s why he envisions a similar scenario playing out in San Antonio with Wembanyama, Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Castle, all ages 23 or younger.

“I’ve always taken that responsibility very seriously,” Paul said. “But also, understanding I’ve come to hoop. I’m not a coach. So, there are things to be learned. I come in with a lot of knowledge from on-the-job training. But I also come in trying to learn from these guys. I’ve [gone] to some teams that are younger. I’m excited to share with these guys what I know, whatever they want to know. But I’m also excited to learn from them.”

Barnes, 32, wisely pointed out that “you can’t just fast track experience.” But Paul’s veteran leadership should make the game easier for Wembanyama, who proved to be a capable scorer at all three levels as a rookie.

Taking on a bench role with Golden State last season, Paul started 18 of 58 games, averaging 9.2 points and 6.8 assists. Paul is expected to start next season for the Spurs.

“[Paul] can literally put [Wembanyama] in position, give him easier looks, have a consistent flow for Vic where he doesn’t have to necessarily go out and hunt shots or have to isolate just to get baskets,” Barnes said. “Look at Chris’s career, the guys he’s assisted, and just their scoring efforts. For all the ways that Vic can score, having a guy like Chris there to help will just make life easy.”

Paul admitted he and Barnes fantasized about the possibilities of playing alongside Wembanyama on their flight over to San Antonio, thinking of “how cool it’s going to be at this point in our careers to get a chance to appreciate him day in and day out,” the point guard said.

Paul added that mutual admiration between him and coach Gregg Popovich played a role in his decision to join the Spurs.

Popovich told Paul: “I want you to come be you,” he said, thus making the veteran “feel wanted.”

“A lot of times there’s rhetoric about, ‘Oh, this guy wants to stay close to home,’” Paul explained. “My wife is here. My kids are back in L.A. and that’s where they will be during the season. I love basketball so much that I could be close to home, but if I’m not playing, I’m not happy. So, when we saw this opportunity, even though it’ll put me away from my family, my family knows that I just want to play. I want to play more than anything, and that’s why I’m grateful for them and more so grateful to be here.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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