NBA: Wembanyama rookie season is over, out on Spurs' finale

NBA: Wembanyama rookie season is over, out on Spurs’ finale

/ 11:45 AM April 14, 2024

Victor Wembanyama Spurs NBA

San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) celebrates a score with guard Devonte’ Graham (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in San Antonio, Friday, April 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Victor Wembanyama’s rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs is over.

The Spurs said that the 7-foot-4 French phenom will not play in Sunday’s NBA season finale against the Detroit Pistons, ending a year that will almost certainly see him take home Rookie of the Year honors.

His final numbers: 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and an NBA-best 3.6 blocked shots per game. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich suggested after Friday’s win over Denver that Wembanyama might be held out for the finale, and the team confirmed that decision Saturday. The official reason cited was right ankle injury management.

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READ: NBA: Wembanyama put up historic numbers in rookie year

“What’s really been interesting is when you watch him from the beginning of the year to now is how much better he’s gotten,” Denver coach Michael Malone said of Wembanyama earlier this month. “I mean, it’s noticeable. He came in as a really talented player, but when you watch him now … Pop’s done a hell of a job building him up in one season.”

Wembanyama — the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft — appeared in 71 games with the Spurs, who enter the finale with a 21-60 record and tied entering the season’s final day with Portland for the worst record in the Western Conference.

He had 34 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and five 3-pointers in what was his last game as a rookie, a 121-120 win over defending NBA champion Denver on Friday night. The Spurs rallied from 23 points down to win the game — their biggest comeback win of the season, and Wembanyama gave the ball a celebratory spike as time expired.

READ: Wembanyama on upward path as NBA season winds down

“As a growing team, a young team, it’s big for us,” Wembanyama said after the game. “We’re going to need these kind of wins in the future. We’re going to need any win. But big-time wins against big teams, first seeds, we’re going to need those in the future.”

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He became just the fourth player, and first rookie, to finish a season with at least 1,500 points, 250 assists and 250 blocked shots. The others: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it five times, Hakeem Olajuwon did it twice and former Spurs great David Robinson did it twice. Nobody had done it since 1993-94, when Olajuwon and Robinson both had such a season.

Wembanyama won’t play again for the Spurs until next season, but fans will presumably see him play long before that. He’s expected to be part of the French roster for the Paris Olympics this summer.

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And he’s said many times that he feels the Spurs are on the right path toward becoming a contender again.

“We’ve got the potential to be great,” Wembanyama said. “The fact that we have the chance to live this, with the fans, I can only hope it’s as incredible as it can be.”

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