‘I’ve never played with anyone like him before’

LAS VEGAS — Victor Wembanyama looked more comfortable on the court in his second game with the San Antonio Spurs, and fans saw a little more of what makes him so special. He led all Spurs players with 27 points and added 12 rebounds, three blocks and a steal in the 85-80 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center. Wembanyama took players off the dribble, finished above the rim with putback dunks and even hit two of his four attempts from 3-point range. Jeremy Sochan, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell sat courtside and watched one of the newest members of the team.

“We’re going to have fun this season,” Sochan told Yahoo Sports with a smile. “I can’t wait to play with him. He’s so tall, it’s crazy.”

A week before the Spurs arrived in Las Vegas for Summer League, Wembanyama hit the court with his new teammates for practice. During five-on-five drills, Wembanyama dunked on two people off a missed shot and came out of nowhere for the rebound. Johnson and Vassell said they just looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed at what they just saw.

“It’s really hard to get a shot off and get anything away around him,” Spurs guard Julian Champagnie said. “Vic is pretty cool though, he loves to compete and we’re all just trying to find that chemistry on the court. I really like playing with him.”

The rest of Wembanyama’s teammates had very similar reactions the first time they met Wembanyama at training and hit the court with him for the first time.

“I was like, ‘Whoa,'” Spurs guard Blake Wesley told Yahoo Sports of the first practice. “I’ve never played with anybody like him before. He’s so long and athletic. I remember there was this rebound he got and went back up with a windmill dunk like it was nothing. I was like, ” How did he do that?’ He brings a lot to the team and I’m just grateful to have him as a teammate.”

Playing alongside Wembanyama in the frontcourt is 6-foot-10 forward Dominick Barlow, giving the Spurs great size and rim protection in the paint. The pair combined for 11 blocks in the first two games.

“I’ve never really had to look up to anyone before, so it was something new,” Barlow told Yahoo Sports about meeting Wembanyama for the first time. “He’s a great worker. He listens, he’s coachable, all the things you want from someone that’s talented. I’m really excited to continue to compete against him in practice and play with him as well.”

Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Wembanyama had the ball in transition with Wesley running up the left sideline. Wembanyama beat his man, drew two other defenders, and instead of cutting, Wesley popped out in the corner for a 3. Wembanyama thought he was still going to the basket and threw the ball out of bounds.

“I know I should have kept cutting and he saw it too,” Wesley said. “We’re going to get it. We’ve had good moments so far, just two games left, so I’m excited to continue building that chemistry.”

With his 8-foot wingspan and 7-4 frame, Wembanyama does things on the court that other players don’t. Instead of grabbing rebounds and turning to look for an outlet pass, he started tipping the ball to his teammates up close to speed up the game in transition.

“I’m trying to get to know his tendencies and we’re all just trying to get on the same page as a group,” Barlow said. “I think we have a chance to be pretty special, especially on the defensive end, with our length and versatility.”

Victor Wembanyama’s Spurs teammates have been impressed with the No.1 overall pick so far. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The sold-out crowd got more of a show Sunday than what fans saw in his debut Friday. Even during warmups, he looked relaxed, joking around with some of the coaches and chatting with his teammates. As the game wore on, Wembanyama began to settle into sets on offense and looked more fluid with various play calls.

“Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing on the pitch tonight, but I’m trying to learn for the next games and be ready for the season,” Wembanyama said on Friday after his first game.

He had a relatively quiet stat line in his debut, scoring just nine points (2-for-13 from the field) and grabbing eight rebounds. He was a completely different player in his second game in a Spurs shirt and positively affected the game in various ways. Sometimes he brought his teammates sitting courtside as spectators and his teammates watching from the bench to their feet, giving a glimpse of what the future holds for this young, talented Spurs team.

“It’s a process,” Wesley said. “We’re all young, and nothing’s going to happen overnight. When the Spurs had Tim Duncan, they were all young, too. We’re all capable of coming together and trying to win a championship in a couple of years. We have all the tools to make it happen.”

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