NBA

'Wonderful' Wembanyama debut impresses Spurs coach Popovich

By Sports Desk October 26, 2023

Gregg Popovich felt Victor Wembanyama had a "wonderful outing" in his NBA debut with the San Antonio Spurs.

Luka Doncic inspired the Dallas Mavericks to a 126-119 victory over the Spurs at the Frost Bank Center on Wednesday, but all eyes were on the 19-year-old first overall draft pick.

Wembanyama was limited by foul trouble throughout the night and had to step out of the game during stages of the third and fourth quarters.

He ultimately played for 23 minutes and was able to finish with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including some standout moments in the closing stages as he returned to the court for the final seven minutes.

The Frenchman added five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. He connected with three of his five attempts from 3-point range.

"One of the toughest things for a player is you get into foul trouble," Spurs coach Popovich said after the game, per ESPN. 

"You never get in a rhythm and you are in and out of the game and that sort of thing. 

"So, I thought his maturity showed even at a young age where he came in with the last seven minutes and just played.

"We ran some stuff for him, he executed where a lot of guys would have been totally out of it by then because they were in foul trouble and didn't get the rhythm. 

"I thought he had a wonderful outing considering that."

Wembanyama acknowledged the result stopped it from being an ideal evening, but was in an optimistic mood after the loss.

"Lots of emotions for sure, but it would have been perfect with a win," he said. "We are learning and it’s only our first regular season game together.

"It might be frustrating [to be in foul trouble], but always keeping your head up is good for my teammates. I can't show it [frustration] on the court, and we learn every day.

"We're going to watch film and if we notice [issues] on the film, the coaches and ourselves, the players, will make whatever it takes to get better."

Doncic had a triple-double with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while Kyrie Irving contributed 22 points as Dallas made a winning start.

"It was a hall of fame performance like [Doncic] does almost every night," added Popovich. "He was great. Kyrie wasn't bad either. So, the two future hall of famers got us."

San Antonio is back in action at home to the Houston Rockets on Friday and Doncic, who relished the challenge of facing Wembanyama on his debut, has no doubt the Spurs phenom will thrive in the NBA.

Doncic said: "It was fun. We knew the whole building was going to be loud and everything.

"This is probably one of the best prospects to enter the NBA, so it was fun. For me personally, I like challenges, so that was a fun challenge.

"He obviously has the size like everybody talks about, but the way he moves for 7-5, 7-6 – I don't know what it is, sorry – but he moves incredibly.

"He moves like a point guard almost. So it's pretty amazing to see him. He's going to have a great future, and it's going to be amazing to watch."

The Mavericks will look to make it two straight wins when they take on the Brooklyn Nets at American Airlines Center on Friday.

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