SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama sent the media corps – some coming from as far away as France – scrambling to grab smartphones and cameras Monday when he strolled through the gym for his first NBA Media Day.
The French phenom ditched the bleached blonde and purple hairdo, opting for his natural style, which signifies it’s time to get down to business on the eve of the young Spurs’ first practice of training camp.
After returning from the NBA 2K24 Summer League in Las Vegas, Wembanyama could finally exhale before the real work of transforming his body commenced.
“Ever since I’ve been in San Antonio, I’ve gained 10-15 pounds,” Wembanyama said. “I’m trying to stop there, trying to not add too much too quick. We’re on a good path.”
The rookie believes he’s now in the best shape of his life, as the Spurs set upon the quest to snap a four-year postseason drought.
What’s on his mind?
Drained physically and mentally after Summer League, Wembanyama took time off after returning to San Antonio before eventually hitting the grind “harder, but also smarter” than “any other moment in my life,” he said. The rookie thinks the work conducted these last three months will “impact my next few years” because it set a foundation to continue building upon.
“My conditioning and physical condition are way, way better than any time before in my life,” he said. “Everything here is done with a purpose. I learned as much about my body in these past three months than I had learned [over] the past five years.”
Wembanyama said this was achieved in multiple ways.
“The Spurs know a lot more than any of my teams before because they could run some tests more thoroughly. All of this is really technical. The biggest difference here is back in Europe I don’t think the whole organizations, front office, coaches, staff, they aren’t as dedicated to have great ambitions long term. Here everyone works in harmony. I know it’s not the same with every franchise.”
Pointing at the Spurs’ five championship banners, he continues: “But here, they know how to win these. They’ve done it before, and they want to do it again. It’s just a beautiful harmony.”
What fans can expect from Wemby:
Here’s what Spurs players have to say about their new 7-foot-3 teammate.
Devin Vassell: “Let’s just put it this way: I think in every game he’s going to do something where you turn around and say, ‘Huh? It just doesn’t make sense.’ Sometimes, he just makes the hoop look so little. He’ll hit a step-back and you’ll say, ‘Did he really just shoot that?’ And then he makes it.
“Y’all are going to have a great time watching him play this year.”
Jeremy Sochan: “I think he is just a freak of nature. It is not normal to see someone that tall moving like that, be agile, and be able to come out and block a shot or dunk it from some weird place. He has done a bunch of stuff (during summer workouts) that is like, ‘Oh, snap. That’s crazy.’ And then it is going to carry on this season, next season, for as long as he plays.
“He is going to prove to people that he is special. It is exciting for us, for the organization to see. It is going to be a lot of fun.”
Zach Collins: “He’s always been the guy on his teams, and everything is kind of run through him. Obviously, we’re gonna run a lot through him. But we have so many more weapons on this team it’s going to make the game easier for him.
“[Him] just realizing that we all can do this thing together, and how much easier that’s gonna make it on him, I can help him a little bit there for sure. Then, just getting used to the grind.”
Training camp begins Tuesday
San Antonio spent the last five years working towards a goal of playing position-less basketball, and Wembanyama embodies that endeavor, which is why you shouldn’t get too caught up at this point in where he might play this season.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich mentioned San Antonio has “a lot of really cool questions we get to answer” at training camp, and one of them is what position their star rookie will ultimately settle into. Popovich said he’s eyeing the Frenchman at both forward positions and at center, and that’s fine by Wembanyama, who said the best way the team can utilize his vast skillset “is to not put me in a box.”
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