Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 dynamic ahead who is that this yr’s most prized NBA prospect, cheered along with his household in France as the San Antonio Spurs gained the 2023 draft lottery Tuesday evening. In San Antonio, followers, maybe understandably, celebrated like they’d gained a championship, yelling in bars and honking automobile horns.
An ESPN reporter who interviewed Wembanyama on tv moments after the Spurs gained the lottery acted as if the draft, which is subsequent month, had already occurred. “What are the San Antonio Spurs getting in Victor Wembanyama?” the reporter requested.
Typically, athletes in these conditions attempt to dismiss the concept that they are going to be the No. 1 decide and deflect with solutions about being pleased with whichever group selects them and the way grateful they are going to be to be drafted in any respect.
But not Wembanyama, and admittedly, why would he? He is not a typical draft prospect, and he wasn’t going to faux to be one, both. He did not deflect. He had a simple reply about what he might be for the Spurs.
“A group participant,” he mentioned, including: “I’m attempting to win a hoop ASAP, so be prepared.”
Here’s what to find out about the Spurs and Wembanyama, the 19-year-old star of the French skilled group Metropolitans 92.
France and the Spurs have an extended and profitable connection.
Tony Parker and Boris Diaw are two of the greatest basketball gamers from France to ever play in the NBA, they usually each gained championships with the Spurs below Coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs drafted Parker with the twenty eighth decide in the 2001 draft. He spent 17 seasons with the group, successful 4 titles, and he might be the first French participant inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, with the ceremony scheduled for August. Parker posted a photograph on Twitter of Wembanyama sporting a no. 9 Spurs jersey — Parker’s quantity — as a toddler and wrote, “Yesss he will the @spurs!!! So happy with you.”
Diaw performed for the Spurs in 5 seasons, and helped them win a championship in 2014.
“There’s a particular relationship between France and the Spurs due to Tony, in fact, and likewise Boris,” Wembanyama mentioned on Tuesday. “I do know half of the nation, possibly if not the complete nation, needed the Spurs to have the first decide, so I used to be taking a look at everybody, and everybody was glad, so I used to be too.”
The Spurs have an incredible observe document with massive males.
Already being known as the best prospect ever, Wembanyama will now observe in the footsteps of Tim Duncan and David Robinson, two of the greatest massive males in NBA historical past. Together, they led the Spurs to 2 championships, then Duncan led the Spurs to 3 extra titles after Robinson retired.
The good half for Wembanyama is that Popovich, who coached Duncan and Robinson, remains to be there to assist him develop. Still, Wembanyama is a a lot completely different participant from Robinson or Duncan, conventional massive males who have been at their greatest enjoying in the put up with their backs to the basket.
Wembanyama is snug scoring in any respect three ranges of the courtroom, adeptly dribbling round defenders to attain and taking pictures jumpers that gamers his measurement are usually not supposed to have the ability to make. It might be a brand new expertise for Popovich.
San Antonio is one in all the most profitable franchises in NBA historical past.
The Spurs have the fifth-most championships in NBA historical past (5), and gained all of them between 1999 and 2014 below Popovich. With Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginóbili, the Spurs developed a core that anchored a dynasty.
Duncan was the greatest participant of the group, successful the Most Valuable Player Award in 2002 and 2003. His Spurs additionally fended off many nice groups and gamers to win championships. In each the 1999 and 2003 Western Conference semifinals, they beat Lakers groups led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. In the 2007 NBA finals, they swept LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The expertise, the teaching, the whole lot in San Antonio was sort of an ideal storm,” Bryant mentioned on the “All the Smoke” podcast in 2020. “If they weren’t in the image, we in all probability would have gained 10 in a row.”
The Spurs have struggled and been concerned in controversy.
When the Spurs have been successful, they have been thought-about the mannequin franchise in the NBA, with an incredible coach and stars who willingly purchased into his system. But that mystique has dissolved.
The Spurs haven’t made the playoffs since 2019 and have turn into one thing of a punching bag in the league. At a information convention in September simply earlier than the starting of the 2022-23 season, Popovich was sincere about the place the group stood: “Nobody right here ought to go to Vegas with the considered betting on us to win the championship,” he mentioned. “And I do know any person will say, ‘Gosh, what a Debbie Downer. There’s an opportunity. What in the event that they work actually laborious?’ It’s in all probability not going to occur.”
Popovich was proper. The Spurs gained 22 video games, their third-lowest win whole in franchise historical past.
Amid that abysmal season, Joshua Primo, the Spurs’ 2021 first-round draft decide, was accused of repeatedly exposing himself to a group sports activities psychologist throughout remedy periods. The psychologist accused the group of failing to guard her and others even after she reported Primo’s conduct.
The Spurs minimize Primo, and the psychologist settled a lawsuit in opposition to the group and Primo.
San Antonio could not make it work with one key star.
In Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs appeared to have discovered their subsequent star to guide them out of the Duncan, Parker and Ginóbili years. He helped them win a championship in 2014 and was named the finals MVP But in the 2017-18 season, Leonard injured his thigh and missed most of the yr.
Throughout the yr, some public feedback by teammates and Popovich appeared to suggest that they questioned the severity of Leonard’s damage. At one level, Parker mentioned he had the “similar sort of damage” as Leonard, “but it surely was 100 occasions worse,” and it had solely taken him eight months to get well.
After the season, Leonard requested a commerce and was despatched to the Toronto Raptors in alternate for a bundle that included DeMar DeRozan. The subsequent season, Leonard led the Raptors to their first title in franchise historical past.
The Spurs roster lacks expertise.
Unlike Duncan, Wembanyama could not have a longtime massive man like Robinson on the group who may help him develop.
The Spurs are loaded with younger gamers; solely three gamers on the roster this season have greater than 4 years of expertise. Wembanyama will turn into the group’s greatest participant on Day 1, liable for carrying one in all the league’s most notable franchises again to relevance.
Of course, the Spurs have the complete summer season to rebuild their group round Wembanyama. Based on how their followers are celebrating, everybody in San Antonio is prepared for one thing new.