In the NBA, a star is born. Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, who was snapped up by the San Antonio Spurs, played his first official game in the world’s most prestigious basketball league Wednesday. The atmosphere at the AT&T Center in San Antonio was one of celebration, marking what is expected to remain in the annals of the sport as a historic moment, the first NBA appearance of a player who is widely tipped to mark an era. However, the exploits of Wembanyama — who has been nicknamed Wemby by Spurs fans — will have to wait. His debut came in a 119-126 loss against the Dallas Mavericks. The Frenchman was loaded with fouls and spent most of the game on the bench. He showed some signs of his unique talent, but his first game was rather lackluster and disappointing overall. Meanwhile, the Mav’s Luka Dončić guided his team to victory with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. A triple double.
Soon after tip-off, Wembanyama put a block on Kyrie Irving and landed a three-pointer, sparking euphoria in the crowd. However, in the first half he managed only one other triple and went to the break with six points, three rebounds, an assist and a block. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, partly by vocation and partly because Wembanyama was soon loaded with fouls, decided to limit his court time. He played only 12 minutes in the first half and 23 across the entire game.
Despite his height, the Frenchman played almost the entire game on the perimeter. His reverses, his dribbling ability, his long-range shooting, his slender figure, and his enormous wingspan make him an unmistakable player, an icon. However, his debut served to show that he still has some way to go to become the decisive player he is expected to be. To become, without expanding on the matter, like Dončić.
Wembanyama drew a blank in the third quarter blank after committing his third foul on offense and spent most of it on the bench. His talent only shone through in the final quarter, in which he scored nine points, to round out the game with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II, the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft, had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
On the plus side for the Spurs, they were competitive throughout the game despite little to no contribution from Wembanyama. If the Frenchman clicks, the Spurs can challenge the NBA’s middle of the road teams. As it stands, Popovich’s team are well of the pace of the playoffs favorites.
Celtics record for Porziņģis
Beyond the symbolism of Wembanyama’s debut, the star of Wednesday’s NBA games was another European of practically the same height, Kristaps Porziņģis. The Latvian made his debut with the Boston Celtics and broke the team scoring record for a rookie with 30 points against the Knicks. He made 8-of-15 baskets from the field, hitting 5 of the 9 three-pointers he attempted, including one that tipped the scales with a minute and a half to go. He also had four blocks and grabbed eight rebounds. In the first quarter, he landed three three-pointers and scored 15 of his Boston’s 30 points.
Porziņģis has been hampered by injuries but he also possesses uncommon skill and shooting ability for a player standing 2.18 meters tall. He wilted at the Washington Wizards last season, but on his arrival at the Celtics he is aiming for a championship ring.
The Latvian center was instrumental in the Celtics’ win in their season opener, which was more difficult than it initially appeared. Boston beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden 104-108 with Celtics star Jayson Tatum, hungry for the ball all game, racking up 34 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. The Knicks trailed all game but took the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter, only to collapse with an answered 0-9 run that doomed them to defeat. RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, both with 24 points, were the Knicks’ stand-out scorers.
Cam Thomas’ 36 points in just 25 minutes were not enough for the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, who edged the contest 113-114. For the visiting team, Denis Mitchell and Max Strus scored 27 points each. Mitchell, another decisive player, landed the game-winning three-pointer.
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