Warriors rave about Spurs ‘sensation’ Wembanyama before final preseason game

Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs will play in San Francisco for the Warriors’ final preseason game: “He’s a sensation.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On Friday night, the biggest story in basketball, both literally and metaphorically, will make his first appearance in the Bay Area.

Victor Wembanyama, the top pick in the 2023 draft and San Antonio’s best prospect since Tim Duncan, will provide a glimpse of the future for a team that was once considered “light years ahead of the league” by its owner.

Warriors center Dario ari is expected to be one of the team’s main defenders against the rookie.

Over a six-year career, the 28-year-old veteran acknowledged Wembanyama’s abilities after playing with other talented bigs such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Deandre Ayton, and reigning MVP Joel Embiid.

“He’s a sensation,” ari said after the Warriors defeated the Kings 116-115 on Wednesday. “He’s 7-foot-4, shooting and dribbling the ball like a guard, so he’s going to be a challenge for us.”

It’s the kind of skill set you’d see in a basketball video game.

“He’s like a 2K create-a-player, like every point guard that wants to be 7 feet,” Stephen Curry told reporters last October. “Cheat code-type vibes.”

Wembanyama, who averaged 21.6 points and 3.0 blocks per game in the French league last season, has put any fears of an adjustment period for the international rookie to rest, scoring 20, 23, and 15 points in three preseason games.

“He’s smart, and he understands he’s got a lot of attention on him,” longtime Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after Wednesday’s game against the Rockets. “It makes no difference to him. He’s just having fun.”

Wembanyama has the towering frame of a dominant post player, and he would have been coveted 20 years ago for his ability to float in jump hooks after carving out a spot on the low block.

However, after watching Wembanyama operate in the pick and roll or swish a sidestep 3-pointer in the corner, it is clear that the No. 1 overall pick is a product of Stephen Curry’s generation.

Wembanyama cited the Warriors as his basketball inspiration in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

“Taking bad or weird shots isn’t something new for me,” Wembanyama says. “Ask any coach I’ve ever played for. They’ve seen me do insane things. They thought I was crazy at times.”

Despite a lackluster showing in Summer League, he has been a highlight machine in the preseason. Wembanyama Euro-stepped from the 3-point line for a dunk against the Thunder. He dribbled downcourt like a point guard and nailed a pullup jump shot against the Heat. He dribbled through a defender’s legs while playing for the Rockets.

Each of those highlights has received millions of views on social media, but fans aren’t the only ones who are impressed with the rookie.

At least offensively, one common comparison for the Wembanyama is Hall of Fame power forward Dirk Nowitzki. The former Dallas Maverick scored 31,560 points and spent his entire career using a pure jumper to destroy Western Conference teams like the Warriors.

Even the sixth-most prolific scorer in NBA history is awestruck by Wembanyama’s abilities.

“Doing a step-up pick-and-roll to a leg crossover to a stepback?” At his height? “Stop it,” Nowitzki, who stands 7 feet tall, told Mark Stein.

A slew of Warriors should be able to protect Wembanyama. Aside from Saric, rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis, Kevon Looney (who missed Wednesday’s win against the Kings due to illness), Usman Garuba, and Jonathan Kuminga could all see time defending the phenom as Golden State works out its frontcourt rotation.

“For now, we’re giving everyone a chance to play, and see what we have and piece it together,” Kerr told reporters.

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