LAS VEGAS — Victor Wembanyama looked more comfortable on the court in his second game with the San Antonio Spurs and fans saw a little bit more of what makes him so special. He led all Spurs players with 27 points and added 12 rebounds, three blocks and one steal in the 85-80 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center. Wembanyama was taking players off the dribble, finishing above the rim with putback dunks and even hit two of his four attempts from 3-point range. Sitting courtside, watching one of the newest members of the team, were Jeremy Sochan, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun this season,” Sochan told Yahoo Sports with a smile. “I can’t wait to play with him. He’s so long, it’s crazy.”
A week before the Spurs arrived in Las Vegas for Summer League, Wembanyama hit the court with his new teammates for practice. During five-on-five drills, Wembanyama dunked on two people off a missed shot and came out of nowhere for the putback. Johnson and Vassell said they just looked at each other, shaking their heads and laughing at what they just saw.
“It’s really tough to get a shot off and get anything off around him,” Spurs guard Julian Champagnie said. “Vic’s pretty cool, though, he loves to compete and we’re all just trying to work out that on-court chemistry. I really like playing with him.”
The rest of Wembanyama’s teammates had very similar reactions to the first time they met Wembanyama at practice and hit the court with him for the first time.
“I was like, ‘Whoa,'” Spurs guard Blake Wesley told Yahoo Sports of the first practice. “I’ve never played with anyone like him before. He’s so long and athletic. I remember there was this rebound he got and went back up with a windmill dunk like it was nothing. I was like, ‘How did he just do that?’ He brings a lot to the team and I’m just grateful to have him as a teammate.”
Playing alongside Wembanyama in the frontcourt is 6-foot-10 forward Dominick Barlow, giving the Spurs some great size and rim protection in the paint. The pair combined for 11 blocks in the first two games.
“I’ve never really had to look up to anybody before so that was something new,” Barlow told Yahoo Sports of meeting Wembanyama for the first time. “He’s a great worker. He listens, he’s coachable, all the things you want from someone that talented. I’m really excited to continue to compete against him in practice and also play alongside him.”
Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Wembanyama had the ball in transition with Wesley running up the left sideline. Wembanyama beat his man, drawing two other defenders and instead of cutting, Wesley popped out to the corner for a 3. Wembanyama thought he was still continuing to the basket and threw the ball out of bounds.
“I know I should have kept cutting and he saw it, too,” Wesley said. “We’re going to get it. We’ve been having good moments so far, just two games in, so I’m excited to continue to build that chemistry.”
With his 8-foot wingspan and 7-4 frame, Wembanyama does things on the court that other players don’t. Instead of grabbing rebounds and turning to look for an outlet pass, he started tipping the ball to his teammates close by to speed up the play in transition.
“I’m trying to learn his tendencies and we’re all just trying to get on the same page as a group,” Barlow said. “I think we have a chance to be pretty special, especially on the defensive end, with our length and versatility.”
The sold-out crowd got more of a show Sunday than what fans saw in his debut Friday. Even during warmups he looked relaxed, joking around with some of the coaches and talking to his teammates. Once the game tipped off, Wembanyama started to settle into the sets on offense and looked more fluid with different play calls.
“Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing on the court tonight, but I’m trying to learn for the next games and be ready for the season,” Wembanyama said Friday after his first game.
He had a relatively quiet stat line in his debut, scoring only nine points (2-for-13 from the field) and grabbing eight rebounds. He was a completely different player in his second game in a Spurs jersey and impacted the game positively in variety of ways. There were times he brought his teammates sitting courtside as spectators and his teammates who were watching from the bench to their feet, giving a glimpse to what the future holds for this young talented Spurs team.
“It’s a process,” Wesley said. “We’re all young and nothing’s going to happen overnight. When the Spurs had Tim Duncan, they were all young, too. We’re all able to come up together and try to win a championship in a couple years. We have all the tools to make it happen.”