The San Antonio Spurs came up short in their season opener, falling 126-119 in a thriller as they succumbed to a relentless second-half comeback from the Dallas Mavericks. Though the organization kicked off the Victor Wembanyama era with a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of their storied intrastate adversaries, this matchup more than lived up to the billing.
Hoop heads across the globe have been sitting on the edge of their seats for the highly-anticipated premiere of the Parisian phenom, and everyone witnessed his immense potential as he took centerstage under the bright lights of a national television audience. How did the rookie forward look in his professional debut? And what can we learn from Wednesday night?
An unforgettable debut performance can add to the lore of your legacy, but it is far from the end of the world if you fall flat in the opening act of your career. Wembanyama landed somewhere in the middle of that vast spectrum, recording 15 points, five rebounds, two steals, and one block on 6-of-9 shooting in 23 minutes. The extraterrestrial teenager also had five fouls and five turnovers, showing everyone that he is, in fact, a mere mortal with holes in his game that will take time to patch.
Every rookie is flawed, and Wembanyama is no exception to that rule. He set moving screens, picked up offensive fouls, coughed up the rock when the Spurs needed a late bucket, and took a handful of questionable shots early in the clock. Despite his shortcomings versus Dallas, the Frenchman had several promising flashes on both ends, and he will probably earn the benefit of the doubt from referees as they learn how to officiate someone as towering, slender, aggressive, and skilled as he is.
With all the negatives out of the way, we would be remiss not to mention how dominant he looked on occasion in his first official action as the face of the franchise. A fourth personal foul forced Popovich to put him on the shelf in the second half. However, he came alive for the Spurs when their momentum dwindled, scoring nine fourth-quarter points off an alley-oop, pull-up three, and-one slam, and a midrange jumper off a cross screen. While his heroics faded, his talent is undeniable.