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Victor Wembanyama told us he wouldn’t dominate his first appearance

If only we had been listening before his first Summer League game.


All eyes were on the 2023 NBA number 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama Friday night in Las Vegas. The 19-year old French phenom made his debut in a San Antonio Spurs jersey for a Summer League game against the Charlotte Hornets. As the dust settles, there seems to be a mixed review on Wemby’s performance.

The final stat line for Wemby was a modest 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks, and a casual search of social media shows that some have roasted Wemby for getting dunked on, crossed over, and pushed around in his debut. A more down to Earth reaction from fans reflects that Wemby is in the process of getting accustomed to NBA play one day at a time. But a Spursian reaction is to look beneath the surface, and in this case, you don’t have to look far at all.

In Wemby’s last interview before the game, he was asked a couple of questions, and his answers are so telling. They stood out as being important before the game, but after the game (and with all of the current questioning of his talent) his answers are downright revelatory.

Here’s a description of the two questions first, so the relevant quotes can be included back to back. The first question was what Coach Gregg Popovich was telling him to focus on, and the second was a follow-up regarding a previous statement Victor made about not playing a big role during Summer League. Here are his replies:

“Coming into a new environment, it’s important not to lose that sense of...just being myself and having fun... Now is the time to experience stuff on the court because when the season starts it’s...about winning.”

“I gotta be an example on defense and more a playmaker on offense... the best players, for me, are not the ones who get the best stats, but the ones who make their teammates better.”

With this mindset, it’s easy to see how anyone expecting to witness the beginning of WEMBYMANIA on Friday night was going to be disappointed. The young man is intent on being himself and having fun while enabling the rest of his teammates to excel. And that’s what we all saw happen in the win over the Hornets.

Here’s the interview; the quotes are at the 3:30 and 5:30 marks.

Postgame, Wemby echoed this sentiment. At 2:43 in the below video, he states, “I just wanted to help the team win.” And while that’s a very mature and Tim Duncan-ish attitude from a young star, it’s an entirely different thing to have said that before what some thought was a pedestrian performance.

Looking forward, there’s a great deal we can gather from Wemby’s first Summer League game. First, Wemby is already NBA-ready on the defensive end: grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, blocking three-pointers (!!), and protecting the rim. Offensively, he displays vision, has a respectable mid-range game, and finishes strong in the paint. While the NBA three-point distance looks like it might require some time for him to get used to, as the regular season approaches, we will undoubtedly see him get more and more comfortable.

So, the kid didn’t have a superlative performance to put his name on the map. It seems that (perhaps because his name is already on the map) he and Pop felt that the best use of these games in Vegas would be proving that he’s a good teammate first, and a potential superstar later. After all, this is the Spurs we’re talking about: what’s more on-brand than taking a long view in a game where the only way to win a championship is to do so as a team?