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Gregg Popovich on the Number One Pick: “We Want Victor to be Victor”

San Antonio’s head coach speaks about Victor Wembanyama for the first time

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after the Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama with the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Gregg Popovich took to the podium in San Antonio.

“I’m very excited,” he told reporters. “You don’t want me to jump up and down, do you? Put on a show? I’d do a somersault, but I’d be out for three months.”

San Antonio’s head coach was in high spirits with the 7-foot-5 French phenom in tow. He was complimentary of the big man, praising his ability to handle the pressure that comes with being called a generational prospect. He also gave some insight into how the staff will coach Wembanyama.

“(We) want Victor to be Victor,” he stated. “We are going to watch him and see what happens. I learned that from Manu. You can’t make players be what you think they should be.”

Pop told the press that he has not been able to meet with Wemby yet but is excited to build a relationship with him. Two other people that are soon to meet with Victor in the coming days — Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the franchise’s other first overall picks — according to Popovich.

The next step for Wembanyama will be the NBA summer league according to Pop.

“(He) will participate in summer league,” he said. “To what degree, we’re not certain yet.”

The head coach acknowledged that Wemby just finished playing in the LNB Pro A playoffs and has not had time off between them and the draft. He mentioned that there have been discussions on whether or not Victor will play for the French national team later this summer in the FIBA World Cup, but no decision has been made yet.

This summer Wembanyama will likely be joined by some of the young Spurs that finished with the second-worst record in the NBA. Jeremy Sochan, Blake Wesley and Malaki Branham are just a few of the players that could make up the roster. Pop said that it’s been a productive summer so far for the players currently on the team, and praised their resiliency through a tough season.

As for the next era of Spurs basketball, led by Victor Wembanyama, Pop said:

“So it begins.”