Home Sports Wembanyama on upward path as NBA season winds down

Wembanyama on upward path as NBA season winds down


Victor Wembanyama Spurs NBA

Victor Wembanyama #1 of the San Antonio Spurs greets the crowd after they defeated the New York Knicks at Frost Bank Center on March 29, 2024 in San Antonio, Texas. Ronald Cortes/Getty Images/AFP

Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs may be headed to a bottom-of-the-table finish, but the sensational French rookie has no doubt he’s on the right trajectory in his first NBA season.

The towering 20-year-old said nothing showed the young team’s progress more than their 130-126 overtime triumph over the New York Knicks on Friday, in which Wembanyama became the first rookie in three decades to score 40 points and grab 20 rebounds to help the Spurs withstand a dazzling 61-point performance from Knicks All-Star Jalen Brunson.

“I’ve never seen so (much) greatness before this season,” Wembanyama said. “I’ve just witnessed so much greatness and I want to be a part of it.

“I always wanted to, but more and more seeing that (I’m) already able to compete with those guys. I’m not near (them) but I’m on the right path. I know it, and I’m going to get there one day soon.”

Plenty would argue that, based on his individual stats, Wembanyama has arrived as an elite player in the NBA, even if the rebuilding Spurs are last in the Western Conference and eliminated from playoff contention.

His career-high 40 points with 20 rebounds against the Knicks on Friday made him the first rookie with a 40-20 game since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993.

READ: NBA: Wembanyama, Spurs headed to France next season

“It’s not the goal, but it still shows progression,” Wembanyama said of the statistical milestones he has managed in a season that has seen him post the first 10-block game in more than three years and become the 15th player — and the youngest — to post the statistical 5×5 — at least five points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in one game.

The Spurs’ victory on Friday went a little way to alleviating the bitter memory of the Spurs’ loss to the Knicks in November in Wembanyama’s first game at the basketball cathedral of Madison Square Garden.

In what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a “learning experience,” Wembanyama had just one basket in the first three quarters and the Knicks led by as many as 30 points on the way to a 126-105 win.

“The Knicks (in November) was a tough game for us and I would say a game that embodied a lot of our weaknesses that we’ve been able to erase a little bit throughout the season more and more,” Wembanyama said. “This is the type of contrast we want to see in the season. But I wouldn’t expect less of us. We’re a young team. We need to get better every night.”

Brunson’s latest close-up view of the Frenchman left the Knicks star in no doubt of just where Wembanyama is headed.

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“He’s going to be one of the greatest players this game has seen,” Brunson said.

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