Stay up to date on No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama during his rookie campaign with the San Antonio Spurs. A new Wemby Watch drops every Sunday during the season. Here’s what we saw this week:
Panini Rising Stars ⭐️
Wembanyama is one of 11 rookies set to compete in the upcoming Rising Stars as part of NBA All-Star on Feb. 16 (9 p.m. ET, TNT).
Wembanyama was drafted as the 1st overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft out of France.
— #NBAAllStar (@NBAAllStar) January 30, 2024
The 21 NBA players selected to participate will be drafted onto three seven-player teams, which will stream live on the NBA App this Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 4 ET.
1-man highlight reel 🤯
We start this week’s compilation by highlighting the rookie’s exceptional passing acumen, which he displayed during Week 15 exhaustively throughout four games. Then we shine a light on the must-see dunks and blocks he continues to pull off effortlessly.
On the court 🏀
Consecutive victories last week for the first time since Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 gave way to four-straight losses in a tough Week 15 for Wembanyama and the young Spurs.
The 20-year-old scored 16 points with 14 rebounds during a 114-113 loss Friday to New Orleans in a game San Antonio led 113-112 with 28.5 seconds left. Wembanyama finished a team-worst minus-9, in addition to misfiring on his only two shots in the fourth quarter. He also committed a pair of turnovers that led to four points for the Pelicans in the final frame.
A Flagrant 1 foul and defensive goaltending by Wembanyama tacked on three more points for the visiting Pelicans. Despite the mistakes and a blown opportunity, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich left encouraged by the way the Spurs fought to the bitter end.
“I thought we played our a—off,” Popovich said. “We missed some 3s in the second half that were wide open. We missed free throws. I don’t care. What I care about is we played so hard. Everybody makes mistakes, but 24 points off turnovers usually gets your butt kicked.”
San Antonio cleaned up somewhat in the turnover department Saturday against Cleveland, but suffered similar results, falling 117-101 on the second night of a back-to-back. Wembanyama contributed 19 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
Having played seven games in 11 nights, Wembanyama and the weary Spurs receive a three-day break before Wednesday’s game at Miami, which starts the club’s annual Rodeo Road Trip.
High praise from Zion 👏
Pelicans forward Zion Williamson offered some advice for Wembanyama back in December following their first matchup. The two most-anticipated No. 1 picks in recent history faced off again Friday in a hard-fought battle that ended with Williamson driving for the go-ahead bucket in the final seconds to secure a win for New Orleans.
Williamson, who scored 33 points, showed respect for the Spurs superstar after the game, with Pelicans coach Willie Green chiming in to applaud both players.
"We haven't seen nothing like that…he's an amazing player."
Zion with big praise for Wemby after battling tonight 🤝 pic.twitter.com/tWmWwjeWRZ
— NBA (@NBA) February 3, 2024
As for Wembanyama, he committed a game-high five turnovers, including three in the second half as New Orleans scored 10 second-half points off nine Spurs giveaways.
“They’re super physical with him, they’re running multiple defenders at him, giving him different defenders throughout the game,” Spurs guard Tre Jones said of Wembanyama. “They’re giving him a whole lot of looks. I wouldn’t say it’s new for him. But it’s a little different than what he’s used to. He’s continuing to learn on the fly in these moments and continuing to impress.”
ROY debate 🤔
The No. 1 pick earned his first Rookie of the Month honors for games played in January.
Wembanyama also remains at the top of colleague Steve Aschburner’s latest Kia Rookie Ladder.
In the news 🗞
The Wemby Show continues to trend as one of the hottest topics around the NBA. We’ve curated a list of a few recent features written about the No. 1 pick:
- ESPN’s Andrew Lopez on Wemby evaluating 2024 Draft prospects who are from France
- The Athletic’s Joe Vardon on Wemby saying he plans to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics
- The Athletic’s David Aldridge on Wemby and Spurs’ improvements since they moved him to the 5
- San Antonio Reports’ Raquel Torres on Wemby celebrating with local private school recognized for French language immersion
What he’s reading 📚
Taking a break from his favorite fantasy novels, the 20-year-old Frenchman spent time reading to kids during his visit Tuesday to the International School of San Antonio.
This pic of Wemby reading to kids at International School of San Antonio
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 3, 2024
Seasonal allergies hit San Antonio 🌵🤧
The French rookie is quickly learning about the year-round nature of allergy season in South Texas.
That was apparent after Saturday’s loss to Cleveland when he started off a postgame interview at his locker wearing a hoodie pulled up to cover his mouth and stuffy nose, telling the media he’s been dealing with allergies for the past three days. He sure sounded like it, too.
“It’s been like that for like three days,” Wembanyama said. “Usually it leaves after one or two days. My body is not used to this kind of effort. My immune system is also impacted. But I’m fine though.”
Of course, social media sleuths linked Wembanyama’s play against the Cavs to that recent disclosure. Yes, the rookie appeared to be more winded than usual in the second half. But keep in mind, he was playing the second night of a back-to-back, logging 28 minutes the night before against New Orleans, before putting in 27 more against Cleveland and its talented bigs.
San Antonio had also just wrapped up its seventh game in 11 days.
“I think he just finished playing more games than all of last year in half the time,” Popovich said.
Wembanyama admitted the workload is taking a toll.
“A little bit, of course,” he said. “I’m glad my body’s healthy, even though it’s hard. I’m glad it’s not giving me any red flags. It is hard, and of course, I would like my conditioning to be perfect. But you’ve got to pick your battles. At this point in my career, we also want my muscle to be maintained more than my legs to be fresh.”
On the allergy front, if you name it, it exists in South Texas from mountain cedar to oak tree pollen, cottonwood, elm, pecan trees, ragweed, pigweed and sagebrush among others. In fact, in 2022 the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked San Antonio No. 5 on the list of worst places to live with allergies.
The Wemby effect 📈
San Antonio’s on-court product remains in the doldrums, but that hasn’t stopped the merchandise from flying off the shelves.
The Spurs rank No. 9 on the NBA’s top-selling team merchandise list based on sales numbers for the first half of the 2023-24 season at NBAStore.com. The rookie French phenom certainly contributes heavily to that, considering he’s No. 4 on the league’s top-selling jerseys list over that span behind Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum and LeBron James.
— NBA (@NBA) January 30, 2024
Kristaps Porzingis’ rookie season (2015-16) in New York marked the last time a first-year player ranked as high as Wembanyama on the NBA’s list of top-selling jerseys.
On the road ✈️
That’s where Wembanyama is headed with the Spurs set to embark on their annual Rodeo Road Trip, which this season features nine games starting Wednesday in Miami and ending Feb. 27 at Minnesota. Luckily for the Spurs, the All-Star break starts after the fifth game of this upcoming road trip.
“It’s like a different rhythm,” Wembanyana said. “It’s not necessarily harder. But you have to focus on different things. You’re not home. You’re in your hotel room waiting to go to a game. It’s really a different schedule from here. You can focus on more basic things. It’s different, and the road life, you see so many cities. It’s a learning experience every time.”
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Michaela Gilmer is a producer for NBA.com.