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:
Rookie showdown 💪
First off, they didn’t guard one another. Wembanyama plays the power forward position, while Chet Holmgren mans the center spot.
But that didn’t dampen anticipation for a matchup featuring the NBA’s top two rookies.
It’s a budding rivalry expected to captivate fans of the seven-footers for years to come.
“I’m not too focused on the next 15 years,” Holmgren said. “I’m focused on helping the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Spurs tonight.”
But neither of the rookies finished as stars of the show. Eight points, 14 rebounds, two assists and two blocks for Wembanyama, while Holmgren posted nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in OKC’s 123-87 beatdown of the visiting Spurs.
So, this clash failed to conjure memories of the duo’s last meaningful matchup in 2021 at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Latvia. But you could feel the coldness brewing between the two in this rivalry Tuesday after the game.
“Two guys who handle the ball,” Wembanyama said when asked about the two bigs possessing similar skill sets. “There’s almost one on every team now the way basketball is evolving.”
1-man highlight reel 🤯
Wemby was the ultimate PAINT PROTECTOR against the Grizzlies with 8⃣ BLK ⛔️
Victor Wembanyama joins Tim Duncan and David Robinson as the only Rookies in Spurs franchise history to record 8+ blocks in a game! pic.twitter.com/1B58djqqhA
— NBA (@NBA) November 19, 2023
Praise from Mr. Clutch 👏
Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox captured the inaugural Jerry West Clutch Player of the Year Award last season, and walked away from his team’s 129-120 win over the Spurs on Friday impressed with the 19-year-old French phenom.
“He’s a special player, extremely special player,” Fox said. “When he’s rolling, you have to be under him because if they throw the ball up, there’s literally nothing you can do. He had it going at the beginning of the game.”
Wembanyama poured in 16 of his 27 points during a first half that San Antonio led by 18 points.
One stat to know 📊
Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs host the Kings tonight at 7:30 ET on ESPN.
Since blocks were officially tracked in 1973-74, the only other players with 200 points, 100 rebounds and 25 blocks through 11 career games all ended up in the Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/Il9Bej5w8M
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 17, 2023
Adding to this stat is the fact that Wembanyama’s 11 consecutive games with a block to start his career ranks as the second-longest in Spurs’ history.
Hall of Famer Tim Duncan reeled off blocks in 15 straight contests as a rookie.
Strengthening a 7-foot frame 🏋️♂️
Reporters awaiting Wembanyama after games often sigh in exasperation because of how long it takes the rookie to arrive for his news conference.
Attribute the long wait to an extensive postgame stretching and weightlifting routine.
Wembanyama added lifting to the bag last year in France.
“In order to prepare for the NBA, I lifted after every game because we need to take the off-days to actually recover since we play every two days [in the NBA] or one day sometimes. So, we lift after every game, then recovery – all different types of stuff – and then media.”
On the road ✈️
High-flying Portland Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe isn’t afraid to attempt a dunk over anybody, including Wembanyama. But it did surprise him to learn that the San Antonio rookie stands at 7-foot-4. Take a listen to his reaction.
Shaedon Sharpe being informed last night of how tall Wemby is is iconic lol pic.twitter.com/F75t3Z5M6P
— Brenna Greene (@BrennaGreene_) November 18, 2023
The Spurs don’t play the Blazers until December, which should give Sharpe plenty of time to prepare.
Circle on Calendar 📅
Sun., Nov. 26: Spurs vs. Nuggets (8 ET, League Pass)
The No. 1 pick faces two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets.
His teammates ⛹️♂️
The rookie revealed that Jeremy Sochan, who is Polish-American, was one of the first Spurs players to welcome him to the team. The two share a love of futbol (soccer).
“We get along well, but it’s a shame that he [Sochan] is an Arsenal fan,” said Wembanyama, a fan of Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
Work in progress ⏳
The losses piled up to three in a row last week, leaving San Antonio mired in an eight-game skid after falling 120-108 Saturday to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Spurs blew a 19-point lead in the latest setback, wheezing through a five-and-a-half-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter that aided the Grizzlies’ comeback.
Wembanyama scored 19 points with 13 rebounds and eight blocks.
Remarkably, he sees no futility in the club’s recent failures.
“Of course, it’s hard to be patient sometimes,” Wembanyama said. “But it’s an everyday fight. I know that the end of the season will not look like the beginning. We’ve got a good way to go in progression.”
Miles, it seems.
San Antonio joined the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets in becoming the second team to suffer three 30-point losses in the first 11 games Tuesday, falling 123-87 at OKC. The Spurs choked away a 19-point lead two nights prior against Miami.
Dreary like the weather cradling the city, Wembanyama’s week featured a career-low in scoring and the rookie receiving his first technical foul, not to mention copious turnovers (18).
On the bright side, the rookie’s career-high eight blocks Saturday registered as the most by a Spur since 2003, when Tim Duncan blocked eight shots against the Denver Nuggets.
“It just motivates me more,” Wembanyama said of the mounting losses. “Nobody in the locker room is putting their head down and giving up. We’re not far away.”
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Michaela Gilmer is a producer for NBA.com.
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