(Photo credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)
Excitement for the debut of 7-foot-4 rookie Victor Wembanyama in San Antonio continues to climb as the start of the 2023-24 NBA season approaches. But apparently nobody told chronically dour head coach Gregg Popovich.
How will Popovich and the Spurs use the No. 1 pick in the draft this season?
"I have no idea," said Popovich, speaking at media day in San Antonio on Monday.
One of the most anticipated NBA prospects in league history, Wembanyama had one massive game (27 points, 12 rebounds) and one big effort in summer league with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks before he was shut down by the Spurs.
Protecting the franchise centerpiece is part of Popovich's role this season as the Spurs look to build back up from a 60-loss season. San Antonio hasn't been to the playoffs since 2019. Wembanyama said he gained "10-15 pounds" since the draft and has never been in better physical condition.
Wembanyama said San Antonio is "a really good place," and that he has been treated like family by strangers he encounters in public.
The closer the Spurs get to starting the regular season, the more the reality of what the franchise needs from Wembanyama comes into focus.
"It's hitting me more and more every day. At first, I didn't really realize how big of an impact this could be. It's really funny walking around or driving around and seeing my face on some signs," Wembanyama said. "I love it, you know."
Popovich said he hasn't spent "any moment whatsoever" thinking about how Wembanyama will fit in with teammates or in the city of San Antonio.
"For his age, he's a thinking person. He's highly intelligent. He's just a good man. So (he) hasn't had nor will he have any problem blending in and gaining the respect of his teammates or understanding our community and what responsibilities he has there."
Popovich wouldn't even commit to a starting lineup -- or Wembanyama being a starter -- rewinding to when the championship Spurs used Manu Ginobili as their sixth man.
"If Manu Ginobili can come off the bench, anyone can, and I don't want to hear it," Popovich said.
Wembanyama, 19, averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 34 games with Mets 92 during the LNB Pro A French League's 2022-23 regular season. He led the league in points, rebounds and blocks and was named Defensive Player of the Year.
--Field Level Media