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Wembanyama a winner in NBA Summer League debut for Spurs

San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama controls the ball during the NBA Summer League game between the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets, at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 7, 2023. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP

NBA top draft pick Victor Wembanyama was a winner in his long-awaited first game with the San Antonio Spurs, who defeated Charlotte 76-68 on Friday in an NBA Summer League contest.

The 19-year-old French prodigy, who stands 7-foot-4 (2.24m), is seen as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James arrived 20 years ago, but showed he has plenty to learn in just over 27 minutes on the court.

Wembanyama made only 2-of-13 shots from the floor, just 1-of-6 from 3-point range, but finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists.

“We’re going to learn a lot. We won this game so that’s a big deal for us,” Wembanyama said after the game.

“Going to get acclimated to the NBA style of play. Didn’t acclimate because it was my first time so next time I’m going to do better. I hope to do better every time.”

A sellout crowd of 17,500 spectators jammed the Thomas & Mack Arena to watch Wembanyama against other young prospects seeking NBA roster spots. He’s expected to play again Sunday against Portland.

“I hope we can keep winning,” he said. “It’s really an experiment. I’m trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as possible to be ready for the start of the season.”

His five blocked shots were the most by a Spurs player in a Summer League game since 2018.

Wembanyama will have pre-season training camp and tuneup games before the Spurs begin the regular season in October.

“We have to take a patient approach with him,” Spurs general manager Brian Wright said during ESPN’s telecast. “He’s extremely unselfish, a really good passer and he’s all about the team.”

“He’s intelligent but he’s also incredibly curious,” Wright said. “You don’t see that a lot of times in somebody that’s that highly touted. It’s what makes him unique.”

Wembanyama started, won the opening tip-off and had an assist on the first Spurs possession, but missed his first three shots — a baseline jumper, an outside jumper and a layup attempt.

The Frenchman made his first basket in a Spurs uniform with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter, banking in an inside turnaround jumper in the lane while being fouled. He sank the free throw to complete a three-point play.

In the first quarter, Wembanyama went 1-of-4 for three points with three rebounds, a blocked shot and an assist over 5:35.

His opponents, the Hornets, made forward Brandon Miller the second overall pick. At times, Wembanyama guarded Miller, but he more often was a defensive force near the basket.

“I was kind of excited he was actually guarding me,” Miller said. “I was having fun with it. I know he’s going to get his.”

The Spurs led 38-26 at halftime and Wembanyama got his first lesson in what to avoid when Charlotte center Kai Jones delivered a leaping slam dunk over the Frenchman with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.

After missing his first five 3-point attempts, Wembanyama sank one with 2:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

‘A lot of potential’ 

Legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said Wembanyama will need to learn the NBA “style of play” and had some advice for the teen prodigy.

“Just to be patient and to pick up what he can pick up as he goes along. He’s not going to get it all at once,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He has got a lot of potential and we’ll see what happens.”

Wembanyama’s Spurs debut was played hours after Las Vegas police said no charges will be filed from an incident where guards protecting Wembanyama were involved in an incident with Britney Spears.

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