Victor Wembanyama’s NBA career got off to a bit of a slow start on Friday night.
Wembanyama, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, scored nine points with eight rebounds and five blocks in his first Summer League game. Wembanyama shot just 2-of-13 from the field, about 15%, in the San Antonio Spurs’ 76-68 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
“Just gotta get acclimated to the new style of play … Next time, I’m going to do better,” Wembanyama said on ESPN after the game. “I hope to do better every time.”
The Spurs officially selected Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft last month. The nearly 7-foot-4 center has been touted as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James, and has been turning heads in France. He’s the first No. 1 overall pick to ever come out of France, and is the first European player to go first in the draft without playing NCAA college basketball since 2006. He’s coming off a season in the French LNB Pro A league where he led the league in points, rebounds and blocks while both earning the league MVP and leading his team to the Finals.
Wembanyama ran into a bit of an issue in Las Vegas before Friday’s game even tipped off. He was involved in an incident on Wednesday when a member of his security team confronted pop star Britney Spears when she was trying to get his attention at the Aria Hotel. A police report was filed, but officials didn’t file charges after an investigation showed Spears accidentally hit herself in the face after her hand was pushed off Wembanyama’s back. Wembanyama said he didn’t know Spears was trying to approach him during the incident, and that he “kept walking and enjoyed a nice dinner.”
The Wembanyama hype has been very real, and it’s easy to understand why. Friday marked just the second time a Summer League session has been sold out ahead of time, and the first time an opening session was sold out ever. NBA legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West were in attendance. ESPN kept showing live Wembanyama look-ins during the Portland-Houston game before his, too.
Wembanyama missed his first three shots of the night, including one that was a dunk, but he finally got a turnaround 5-footer to fall through two Hornets players early in the first quarter.
He went just 1-of-7 from the field in the first half and missed all of three of his 3-point attempts, but Wembanyama was still making plenty of impressive plays on both ends of the court.
Wembanyama found himself on the wrong end of a poster in the second half.
Hornets forward Kai Jones threw down a massive dunk and drew a foul over Wembanyama midway through the third quarter.
Wembanyama didn’t attempt a shot in the third quarter, and later was crossed up by Hornets rookie Brandon Miller.
Finally, Wembanyama got a 3-pointer to fall late in the fourth quarter. He drew a foul on the play and converted the four-point play. Julian Champagnie led the Spurs with 20 points and eight rebounds. Malaki Branham added 17 points
Though Wembanyama’s debut wasn’t as flashy as many may have liked, there’s no reason to overreact. The 19-year-old has played in only one Summer League game so far. He’s got plenty of time to settle into the league.
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