NBA top pick Wembanyama has 27 points, 12 rebounds in Spurs loss to Blazers
Victor Wembanyama, the NBA’s top draft pick, showed improvement Sunday in his second game with San Antonio, scoring 27 points in an 85-80 NBA Summer League loss to Portland.
The 19-year-old French center, who stands 7-foot-4 (2.24m), has been hyped as the NBA’s best prospect since LeBron James 20 years ago, but had received a wake-up call in his first game against NBA talent.
This time though, Wembanyama grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, blocked three shots and made a steal in just under 27 minutes on the court. He sank 9-of-14 shots from the floor, 2-of-4 from 3-point range, and 7-of-12 from the free throw line.
“He was a tough matchup for us,” said Portland guard Michael Devoe, who scored a game-high 29 points.
“We just wanted to be physical with him and try to make him make tough shots over us. He did a great job but I think defensively we did a great job too.”
In his debut on Friday, Wembanyama struggled with nine points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists in just over 27 minutes as the Spurs beat Charlotte 76-68. He made only 2-of-13 shots from the floor and just 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Against the Trail Blazers, Wembanyama looked more comfortable with the Spurs offensive schemes, something he said was a problem in his first game, and was able to make dunks and grab attacking rebounds.
Wembanyama sank a late 3-pointer to lift the Spurs within 79-78 with 1:58 remaining, but Devoe answered with a 3-pointer for Portland and the Spurs never came so close again, leaving both clubs with 1-1 records.
The event, featuring top young prospects trying to earn a place on NBA rosters, marks Wembanyama’s debut in a Spurs uniform and a hint of what he might face against more veteran competition when the NBA regular season begins in October.
It’s not certain if or when Wembanyama will play again in the Summer League, the French rookie saying he didn’t expect to play in more than two matches in Las Vegas.
The Spurs’ next Summer League game is on Tuesday against Washington with another on Friday against Detroit.
Portland guard Scoot Henderson, taken third in the NBA Draft, sat out after suffering a right shoulder injury in the Blazers’ opener against Houston, spoiling a hyped matchup against Wembanyama.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “Still day to day.”
There was good news on Saturday for Wembanyama when the Spurs announced that 74-year-old coach and president of basketball operations Gregg Popovich has signed a new five-year contract with the club.
He’s the longest-tenured coach in US sports, has guided the Spurs to five NBA titles and the US team to Tokyo Olympic gold.
Popovich also has experience with big men, having coached top draft picks David Robinson and Tim Duncan, and global talent, having guided French guard Tony Parker and Argentina playmaker Manu Ginobili.
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