Lun. Abr 15th, 2024


LOS ANGELES — Victor Wembanyama took questions at the podium sitting in front of a San Antonio Spurs banner and was told about the statistical feat he had just pulled off Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers

Wembanyama joined Jamaal Tinsley (2001) as the only NBA rookies to have a 5×5 game — posting at least 5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks in a game — and also became just the second player to have 5 blocks and 5 steals in consecutive games, joining Michael Jordan.

Wembanyama paused to consider Jordan’s feat and then asked, «I wonder if he did it in wins.»

Jordan, who did it in his third season, did in fact do it in wins. Wembanyama did it in losses. Wembanyama’s Spurs lost 113-108 to the Lakers on Friday night despite the rookie’s best efforts.

Wembanyama finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks to become just the 15th player in NBA history to record a 5×5, and the first since Jusuf Nurkic in 2019.

It came just one night after he narrowly missed the feat Thursday night at Sacramento, falling one assist short. Wembanyama did become the first player in NBA history to average a 5×5 over a two-game stretch since 1973-74, when blocks were first recorded as an official stat.

Wembanyama played 31 minutes, the fewest in a 5×5 game, and, at age 20, also became the youngest player to achieve the statistical mark. He also became the second player with a line of 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and five steals, joining Hakeem Olajuwon, who did it four times.

But these feats won’t mean as much to Wembanyama, he said, until they come in victories.

«To me, it’s secondary,» Wembanyama said. «Hopefully in the future, and think this is a good performance, but as of today, I can’t be satisfied with a loss.»

The Lakers’ superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was too much for the young Spurs to overcome. James had 30 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds, while Davis had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

«Of course it was challenging [going against] one of the best duos in the league,» Wembanyama said. «But still, I think it’s a lot of teams we beat if we play this way.

«But I think it came down to maturity at the end because each and every one of us was making a mistake each of the times. Little mistakes, missing a layup, turning the ball over. We went down, we went back to down four, down seven multiple times and that’s when we did mistakes. So yeah, it’s maturity.»

Following the game, James had nothing but high praise for Wembanyama.

«He doesn’t have a ceiling,» James said. «He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I’m not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it’s literally that simple.

«As far as your question as far as havoc [defensively], there are guys in our league that you have to account for any time you get around the rim or around the perimeter in our league history, and he sits right at the top of it, [if not] around the top, with all the greats.»

When asked about some of the best rookies he has seen, James mentioned players such as Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

«He’s one of them to have like a stellar rookie season,» James said. «Guys that have come in and [dominated]. But, it’s, can you sustain it? We’ve had guys that have come in and just been really damn [good]. I think the one thing that Wemby has above all the guys that I kind of named is you see his length.

«You see how tall he is and his length. This guy next to me,» James said, pointing to Davis, «possesses a lot of length, and he’s like even more than AD. So that what makes it a little bit different.»

Friday’s loss dropped the Spurs to 11-46 on the season. It was their 10th loss in 11 games.

But Wembanyama’s teammates know that the frequent losses won’t be there forever, in part, because of how much of a difference-maker the rookie is and can be.

«I just think that he’s showing how special he is,» Spurs guard Devin Vassell told ESPN. «Obviously we know what we’re building around. We know what we have, and it’s just tough because I talked about it yesterday. You’re sitting here and you compete night in and night out, day in and day out and you’re not winning.

«It’s obviously tough. We’re always going to stay on him. He wants to be great, and we appreciate that and we’re not just him, but I think all of us want to be great.»

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.


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