Spurs fans aren’t the only ones growing tired of Victor Wembanyama’s minutes restrictions while he nurses a gimpy ankle back to health. Unsurprisingly, he is too. It seemed like his night was over when he subbed out with just over three minutes left against the Grizzlies, the Spurs down 16 and his 24-minute quota reached, but then he surprisingly checked back in with 1:46 left. He would quickly make a dunk before checking back out 30 seconds later.
It was an odd but forgettable moment at the time, but it turns out re-entering the game was a decision he admitted to making all on his own before Gregg Popovich subbed him back out.
After lobbying for a few more minutes after exiting w/ 3:07 left, Wemby checked himself in w/ 1:46 left. After he recorded a dunk w/ 1:13 to go, Pop pulled him at the 1:10 mark. "I wasn't allowed to sub in, but I still did it, and the coach sent me out right after," Victor said.— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 3, 2024
His reasoning — with his team down 11 but making a comeback attempt and the Grizzlies mired in a series of errors — was he felt they still had a chance to win, and he wanted to contribute. He went on to emphasize that he trusts the staff and agrees with the minutes restrictions, but he’s also growing frustrated and is ready for them to be lifted.
Wemby stressed he's on board w/ the cap on his minutes. Checking himself in underscored his belief the Spurs could still win the game and another minute or two wouldn't hurt. "...I know the wise option is to listen to the staff even though it is hard and frustrating," he said.— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 3, 2024
The restrictions all began in December after Wemby rolled his right ankle three different times, the latest being in Dallas right before Christmas when he stepped on a staff member’s foot during shootaround. He has certainly looked fine in the last few games he’s played — his energy level has been up, and he has completed many highlight reel dunks — but that hasn’t stopped Pop from sticking to doctor’s orders. When asked last night when Wemby will be freed, Pop re-emphasized that the restrictions will remain until the next scheduled imaging of his ankle (whenever that is).
Asked if Wemby is closer to having the minutes restriction lifted, Pop said, "In a certain amount of time, we will take more pictures and that will determine whether the minutes thing changes or not."— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 3, 2024
Wemby logged 26 tonight, 2 more than his cap of 24.
The fact that Pop is waiting for more “pictures” before making a decision suggests that previous scans probably showed some straining of the ligaments, so of course the right move is to play it safe until the scans are clear.
Still, it’s hard for any player to sit when his body says he can play, and while Wemby’s little stunt was a risky one from a disciplinary standpoint, it’s good to see that winning mentality in him taking over. Odds are he didn’t expect NBA wins to be this hard to come by, but as he grows into a leader, hopefully that same mindset will begin spreading to his teammates. (Just don’t encourage defying your coach too much; not everyone has the star status to get away with it.)