Wembanyama aiming to play 'every single game'
SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs have already been cautious with Victor Wembanyama so far.
In summer league, the 7-foot-4 rookie sensation only played in two games as he was coming off a full season in the French league, including a run to the finals. In the preseason, he — like other Spurs’ key players — skipped one game.
But when it comes to the regular season, Wembanyama wants to make sure he’s as available as he can be.
“Every game. If there’s no excessive risk for my health — of course I can’t predict the future — but I want to play every single game,” Wembanyama said on Tuesday.
The Spurs have kept their plan for Wembanyama under wraps as much as possible so it is unclear when and if he will rest any games, especially as the league continues its crack down on load management with the new Player Participation Policy.
As Wembanyama said, injuries are a part of the game but he made it clear he wants to play if healthy.
His comments come on the eve of his NBA regular season debut. The Spurs are hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night on ESPN.
This is Wembanyama’s third NBA “debut” so far. There was his summer league opener in Las Vegas and then his preseason debut in Oklahoma City. But the next one is the one that counts in the standings. And Wembanyama said it doesn’t feel like the others.
“This one feels unreal even more,” Wembanyama said. “I thought maybe a month ago that some preseason games would prepare me for that moment, and it would be just another game. But it feels totally different. The fact it’s an actual NBA regular season game. It’s different.”
Wembanyama said that he’s also ready for the physicality he expects from teams that will try to push him around on both ends of the floor.
“Everyone has their strength and being physical [with me] is something I’ve seen my whole life basically every time I stepped on a court for the last few years,” Wembanyama said. “It’s not something I’m afraid of.
“Quickness beats physicality when used correctly. It’s really part of the game. I’m used to it.”
Wembanyama excelled on both ends in the preseason. In four games, he averaged 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in just 20.9 minutes per game on .509/.318/.857 shooting splits.
Defensively, Wembanyama will be tasked with helping to improve what was the league’s worst defense a season ago, one that allowed 119.6 points per 100 possessions.
Reserve forward Cedi Osman said having Wembanyama “blocking everything” certainly helps the defense but it will also help to have 6-foot-8 power forward-turned-point guard Jeremy Sochan as the point of attack defender as well.
“I think that first unit, the last two games have been doing a great job and they are the ones that set the tone,” Osman said on Monday afternoon.
Osman also has been one of the Spurs who has gone up against Wembanyama the most at practice. Despite their height difference — Osman, listed at 6-foot-7 going against the 7-foot-4 (and possibly taller) Wembanyama — the veteran has been trying to use his weight to push the rookie around some.
“A lot of players will try and go at him,” Osman explained, “and I think that he’s really physically and mentally ready for that moment. He’s really excited and we’re really excited for him.”