San Antonio – The Spurs snapped an 18-game losing streak with a 129-115 loss against generational talent Victor Wembayama and LeBron James on Friday.
The 19-year-old was already involved in an epic battle of the bigs against Anthony Davis on Wednesday when James sat out with an injured calf.
This time, Davis sat (hip) and James took the floor.
The end result: The Spurs starters stood at Frostbank Center and walked to the bench with 1:48 left.
The owner-registration drift is finally over.
Here are five takeaways from the tournament.
1. Vembanyama starts 4th straight game at center
The team lists forwards, and Wembanyama has noted that “the best way to help me” is for Spurs to “not put me in a box”.
Nevertheless, he has played at center in four consecutive games after playing at power forward in his first 19 appearances.
Don’t overdo it. Experimentation rules the day.
Spurs continue to use lineups that feature Wembaniyama surrounded by four perimeter players, and Friday’s match was no different in their search for optimal combinations on the floor.
“I wouldn’t rate him as a 5” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He gets it on the wing, up top, in the block, in the paint. He’s everywhere offensively. If you want to call him the five-man, that’s who he guards.
We have seen signs of progress centered on Vembanyama. He is averaging 19.8 points with 16.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks over these last four contests.
The new player has also been instrumental in the club’s progress in defence.
The Spurs ranked 12th in scoring defense (114.2 points per 100 possessions) entering Friday’s contest, thanks in large part to Wembanyama’s 8-foot wingspan in 10 games.
2. The Wembley-LeBron showdown is uneventful
The Davis-Wembaniyama matchup on Wednesday sparked more fireworks than we saw on Friday, as the big men combined for 67 points and 23 rebounds in the Lakers’ 122-119 victory.
But a sellout crowd of 18,354 was seen late in the second quarter of an eventful series featuring generations of superstars who arrived in the league 20 years apart. James found himself with the ball pinned in the corner against the 7-foot-4 Wembaniyama.
The 38-year-old hit a 23-footer to give Los Angeles a 66-60 lead.
“Trying to get his hands down A little bit, because I know his wings,” James said. “I tried to make a little more room and shoot a little higher.”
Wembaniama admits that the collective eyes of the Frost Bank Center were on him at the time.
“It’s a very tall shot,” he said.
The rookie looks forward to facing James, a four-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP. Once the competitive juices started flowing, the 19-year-old focused solely on the action on the ground.
“No, I haven’t [any] Emotions in the court,” Vembaniyama said.
The 19-year-old said the stars did not chat after the game.
3. Anthony Davies’ advice to Wembie: “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself”
Davis earlier in the week sympathized with Wembaniyama’s status as a generational talent tasked with turning around a franchise’s fortunes.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2012, Davis entered the league under the weight of high expectations. But the 30-year-old said his experience at the 2012 London Olympics made the transition easier. Davis played with James on the U.S. team that summer, which included veterans Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
“You have your ups and downs,” Davis said Tuesday after the Lakers’ loss in Dallas. “But don’t stress yourself out because of other people’s pressure. You need to know what your team wants from you, and don’t assume you can change ownership in your first year.
Davis yelled at James In the visitor’s locker room: “What [did] Are you doing it in your freshman year?”
James replied: “To what?”
“Playoffs,” Davis said.
James spent that time “having a blast in Cancun.”
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer echoed Davis’ opinion.
“Even the best guy at building them didn’t make it his freshman year,” Davis said. “So, you just roll with it, take your time, and I think every year your game gets better and better.”
4. Spurs not closing the door on potential additions
You’ve heard it before, but San Antonio’s background lacks depth. Trey Jones is the only traditional point guard on the roster, and he comes off the bench.
“We’re going to work with what we have,” Popovich noted when asked about completing potential moves ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
That is not entirely true.
Despite the struggling Spurs trying their best to develop second-year forward Jeremy Sochan as a point guard, the team plans to remain open-minded if a better trade scenario develops.
Any action possible Created with a longer time window in mind than the present. Personal development and team concepts are the focus of this season.
“But if there’s a trade that makes sense now and in the long term, of course we’re looking at it,” Popovich said. “[General manager] Brian Wright and his guys are already doing that.
5. Wembaniyama tied Dwight Howard’s mark for double-doubles
The 19-year-old rookie recorded his seventh straight double-double in three quarters against the Lakers, tying Dwight Howard for the most double-double in NBA history for a teenager.
Vembanyama had 11 points and 12 rebounds in the first three quarters as San Antonio led 98-87 entering the final frame. The freshman finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
Howard set the record straight As a 19-year-old in his second season in Orlando, he amassed seven consecutive double-doubles from Nov. 5 to Nov. 19, the last of which occurred 19 days before his 20th birthday.
For Vembanyama, the new milestone fell short of San Antonio winning its first game in 43 days.
“Of course, I never want to lose again, but it happens,” he said. “We have to enjoy these moments because I’m addicted to winning. This is what I love and this is what I live for.”
Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can email him HereFind his archive Here And follow him Twitter.
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