Fox Sports NBA Writer
LAS VEGAS – This is the Victor Vembanyama we’ve been waiting for.
Just two days after saying he was “tired” and “didn’t really know” what he was doing after his shaky debut on Friday, Vembanayama showed glimpses of greatness in his second NBA Summer League game on Sunday .
He used his 8-foot wingspan to erase opponents’ view of the basket.
He used his unique combination of height (6 feet 8 inches without shoes) and speed to dominate, even missing a jumper at one point and then somehow getting his rebound to the other side of the basket. Did. Catch before you get trimmed.
In other words, he used his unicorn body to do things that many of the most talented basketball players in the world are physically unable to do.
So yeah: that’s what it’s all about.
Wembanyama finished with 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in the San Antonio Spurs’ 85-80 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, following his nine points, eight rebounds on Friday. enhanced performance. dust.
Vembanayama said, “It’s just that I’m comfortable with myself and my body on the pitch.” “Before today I had two training sessions and one match. I just started.”
The last few weeks have been tumultuous for Vembanyama.
It was emotional, he broke down in tears after being selected number 1. 1 overall pick in last month’s draft.
It was exhausting, as he gave so many interviews that even some media members were taken aback.
It was hectic and he made a highly anticipated debut with the Spurs in front of a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center that featured one of the greatest players of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
It was tiring, the day after his debut he was paraded from event to event, participating in a panel discussion with Abdul-Jabbar and Isiah Thomas, as well as announcing the NBA’s lucrative season-tournament season. It also included being present on stage.
It was a very good Sunday for the 19-year-old Vembanyama, especially after his disappointing debut.
But what he’s really excited about is hiding in the shadows for a few months where he gets a chance to work on his body and his game with some of the greatest basketball minds in the world, including the winningest NBA coach of all time, Greg Popovich. are also included.
[Popovich signs five-year contract to remain Spurs coach and president]
“I think basketball wasn’t even 50 percent of my schedule last month,” Vembanayama said. “I can’t stand it. I know this is a special moment in my life, but I’m glad it’s over. To be honest, I just want to circle. I just want to train, lift weights and that’s my life. Obviously, every first choice has to go through this.
This is true only to an extent.
Wembanayama is under a more powerful magnifying glass than other players, heralding him as the hottest prospect in the last 20 years since an 18-year-old boy named LeBron James entered the league.
Vembanayama has become a household name before even playing a regular season game, a far cry from top 2022 selection Paolo Banchero or 2021 Cade Cunningham, etc., etc.
That’s a lot of pressure for a 19-year-old.
And it’s unclear whether Vembanyama will play another Summer League game. The Spurs have generally been one of the more prudent injury prevention franchises, with Popovich credited with inventing “load management”. Vembanyama is a valuable commodity and a lot can go wrong in a Summer League game, as we saw on Friday when No. 3 overall pick Scooter Henderson suffered a right shoulder injury.
Whether or not we see him play again this summer, Vembanayama made a lasting impression on Sunday.
After a slow start, they scored 11 points in the second quarter and outscored the entire standings in their first quarter. There were several key plays, including his making a block immediately followed by a dunk on the other side.
He then nearly helped the Spurs come back from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter, making a three-pointer with less than two minutes left to put his team within one point of the Trail Blazers, 79–78.
“Victor, he’s great,” said Blake Wesley, who had 14 points and five assists. “…all you have to do is throw it, and then he can get it.”
In the coming months, Vembanyama looks forward to delving deeper into his real work. He plans to talk to Popovich about when to take breaks and go on vacations, and when to throw yourself back into lifting, conditioning and ramping.
It’s already clear that Vembanayama deeply respects the five-time champion’s coach and trusts him to help him realize his potential, as Popovich famously did with Tim Duncan. .
When asked about his reaction to the 74-year-old Popovich agreeing to a five-year contract extension worth more than $80 million, Vembanayama didn’t hesitate.
“It’s another sign from them and the franchise that they care about this project,” he added. “Something wonderful is happening, beginning.”
Anyone who saw Vembanyama play on Sunday can feel the same way.
It has exciting potential. There is something exciting in knowing that we may be witnessing the early stages of the next James, Duncan or Kobe Bryant.
As far as Vembanyama is concerned, he is happy that the madness is behind him. But if everything goes according to plan, there is a lot more to come.
In the meantime, he can’t wait for the curtains to close before making his grand reveal in October.
“Two to three great months are coming,” he said. “They’re going to change my life.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for Fox Sports. He previously covered the competition for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow him on Twitter @melissaroline,
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