LAS VEGAS – Victor Wembayama had 27 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes for the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday in his second straight NBA Summer League game.
Double-doubles are good even in Las Vegas, when there’s no pressure and no competition like he’ll see when the real NBA season starts in October.
“It’s summer league and he’s got a big future, the season is coming up and all these things are there, but I don’t think there’s any doubt there’s a lot of focus, and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t feel some of it,” Spurs summer coach Matt Nielsen. “I think he showed the ability and resilience that he is, and he wants to step up and get better in the areas that we’ve talked about.”
The 19-year-old Vembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft and an international sensation, shot 9-of-14 from the field in the Spurs’ 85-80 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers this summer, adding three blocks. His 3-pointer with 1:58 left brought the Spurs within a point and brought thunderous applause from a crowd that was clearly hungry to see him play like this.
It was a remarkable improvement for the 7-foot-4 Frenchman, who made a modest 13 of 15 shots Friday in his highly anticipated summer debut.
“It’s me being comfortable with myself, being comfortable with my body, the court,” Wembaniama said. “Before today, I liked two practices and one game, so I’m going.”
After his European pro season ended, Vembanyama shook off some rust from the party circuit he hit and moved well against the Blazers. He showed more touch near the basket, drew enough fouls to shoot 12 free throws (and made seven), and knocked down a pair of jumpers. He was an obstacle in the lane for drivers and slashers — which was the main positive Spurs fans took from the five blocks he posted on Friday.
Wembaniyama also continued to struggle to maintain possession as stronger players tried to take the ball away from him.
In the second quarter on Sunday (he scored nine in his debut on Friday), Vembanyama showed off his skills with a nine-point outburst behind a nifty floating jump shot and two dunks. He had fans at full tilt in the fourth with a 10-point outburst that included two 3-pointers, a hook and a sharp spin and shot off the glass.
He airballed a wide-open 3 from the top of the key, reminiscent of the fact that while the YouTube videos of a giant splashing 3 were cool, he shot just .275 from 3-point range in the French Pro League last season.
Sunday’s game was supposed to be a matchup between two rookies who entered the draft with much hype — Vembanyama and the Blazers’ No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson — but Henderson left Friday with a shoulder injury in his first game.
The Spurs’ next summer league game is against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET, and Nielsen acknowledged that Wembanayama’s summer schedule will be cut short by the end of the season.
“I’m sure it will come pretty quickly, but for me right now, I’m just trying to get through that game, so I don’t know about the next step, but enjoy it,” Nielsen said. .
Wembanyama added: “I have to talk to Bob (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) and I’m going to listen to whatever he says. I’m willing to make any sacrifice for the team, I’m willing to give 100 percent.
(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)