“Just Learned About the NBA”: Gregg Popovich Addresses Victor Wembanyama’s Lackluster MSG Debut

Published 11/09/2023, 8:55 AM EST

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The much-hyped Victor Wembanyama played his first game in an explosive Madison Square Garden, a venue known for making legends and fulfilling dreams. The French rookie, who is 19 years old, stood in one of the most well-known basketball arenas in the world and received a loud standing applause from the crowd. A future NBA star in the making, it was an eventful moment of pure excitement and expectation.
Victor Wembanyama’s debut at the Mecca of basketball didn’t have the bang fans would expect. The final buzzer sounded, and the scoreboard showed a 126-105 loss for the San Antonio Spurs. It was a mediocre performance from Wemby with 14 points and nine rebounds. However, their head coach Gregg Popovich saw the first game played by the rookie at MSG quite differently.

Popovich’s patient approach to developing Wembanyama

Greg Popovich addressed the media after the game and gave an account of Victor Wembanyama’s path in the NBA. In his many years of coaching, Popovich had come to realize the truth about developing one’s talent. He said, “He’s a 19-year-old rookie who just learned about the NBA. Of course, it’s a learning experience. We do not put him in such circumstances unless we know where he is most comfortable and where he feels the best.”

USA Today via Reuters

Popovich’s words illuminate a considered strategy employed by the Spurs. Young players at a professional level in basketball are constantly changing, learning, polishing their skills, and finding their own strengths. Popovich continued, “I just figured out recently he likes one block more than the other block, and it’s the opposite of what you would think. So we need to observe him for a while and see where he naturally performs the best.”

The patient, observational approach reflects Spurs’ commitment to helping Victor Wembanyama achieve his potential. He is an imposing young Frenchman with immense potential.

Wembanyama’s resilience in debut NBA season

Despite the third successive loss of the San Antonio Spurs team, Wembanyama expressed his feelings when he played in MSG. “Our main concern is always to remain wise, and keep on playing,” he said. There is no doubt that Victor Wembanyama knows what young players have to cope with regarding an NBA season.

His statistics have not been so bad since being selected first in the 2023 NBA draft. He is averaging 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game in the 2023-24 NBA Regular Season. These figures were suggestive of the possibilities that had people and experts talking even before he landed in America. Although his MSG debut might not have been exciting, it is only an introduction of him to the NBA league.

Finally, Victor Wembanyama’s first taste of Madison Square Garden did not result in an overnight success but it is a part of the longer road ahead.

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Written by:

Abhinav Tomar


One take at a time

Abhinav is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports, known for his insightful coverage of the league. With a deep passion for basketball fueled by the late Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship runs, Abhinav has built his writing career on astute analysis and a firm understanding of the game. His transparent reporting and dedication to providing quality content have earned him credibility and respect among readers and industry professionals alike.
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