Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 dynamic ahead who is that this 12 months’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 choose and deflect with solutions about being proud of whichever workforce 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 fake to be one, both. He did not deflect. He had an easy reply about what he could possibly be for the Spurs.
“A workforce participant,” he mentioned, including: “I’m making an attempt to win a hoop ASAP, so be prepared.”
Here’s what to learn about the Spurs and Wembanyama, the 19-year-old star of the French skilled workforce 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, and so they each gained championships with the Spurs below Coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs drafted Parker with the twenty eighth choose in the 2001 draft. He spent 17 seasons with the workforce, profitable 4 titles, and he will probably 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 carrying a no. 9 Spurs jersey — Parker’s quantity — as a baby 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 in addition Boris,” Wembanyama mentioned on Tuesday. “I do know half of the nation, perhaps if not the entire nation, wished the Spurs to have the first choose, so I used to be taking a look at everybody, and everybody was blissful, so I used to be too.”
The Spurs have an amazing observe report with huge males.
Already being known as the biggest prospect ever, Wembanyama will now observe in the footsteps of Tim Duncan and David Robinson, two of the greatest huge 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, continues to be there to assist him develop. Still, Wembanyama is a a lot totally different participant from Robinson or Duncan, conventional huge males who have been at their greatest enjoying in the publish with their backs to the basket.
Wembanyama is comfy scoring in any respect three ranges of the courtroom, adeptly dribbling round defenders to attain and taking pictures jumpers that gamers his measurement usually are not supposed to have the ability to make. It will probably be a brand new expertise for Popovich.
San Antonio is considered one of 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, profitable 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, every thing in San Antonio was form of an ideal storm,” Bryant mentioned on the “All the Smoke” podcast in 2020. “If they weren’t in the image, we most likely would have gained 10 in a row.”
The Spurs have struggled and been concerned in controversy.
When the Spurs have been profitable, they have been thought of the mannequin franchise in the NBA, with an amazing 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 workforce 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 individual will say, ‘Gosh, what a Debbie Downer. There’s an opportunity. What in the event that they work actually arduous?’ It’s most likely not going to occur.”
Popovich was proper. The Spurs gained 22 video games, their third-lowest win complete in franchise historical past.
Amid that abysmal season, Joshua Primo, the Spurs’ 2021 first-round draft choose, was accused of repeatedly exposing himself to a workforce sports activities psychologist throughout remedy classes. The psychologist accused the workforce of failing to guard her and others even after she reported Primo’s conduct.
The Spurs lower Primo, and the psychologist settled a lawsuit towards the workforce 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 steer 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 12 months.
Throughout the 12 months, some public feedback by teammates and Popovich appeared to indicate that they questioned the severity of Leonard’s harm. At one level, Parker mentioned he had the “similar form of harm” as Leonard, “but it surely was 100 instances worse,” and it had solely taken him eight months to get better.
After the season, Leonard requested a commerce and was despatched to the Toronto Raptors in change for a package deal 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 huge man like Robinson on the workforce who may also 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 workforce’s greatest participant on Day 1, liable for carrying considered one of the league’s most notable franchises again to relevance.
Of course, the Spurs have the entire summer time to rebuild their workforce round Wembanyama. Based on how their followers are celebrating, everybody in San Antonio is prepared for one thing new.