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Victor Wembanyama hype slapped to reality in rocky Summer League debut

LAS VEGAS — The game was drawing near, the moment and player everybody in Vegas came to witness.

Behind the basket, a Hornets staffer, awaiting his team’s showdown against Victor Wembanyama, spoke to a colleague.

“He slapped an American princess,” the staffer said. “She’s royalty.”

It was dripping with sarcasm, to be sure. Britney Spears might’ve been a pop sensation in 1999, but she long ago descended into something else. Plus, Wembanyama never slapped Spears. It was Spurs security who connected on the infamous backhand.

But the sentiment from the Hornets executive was easy to interpret. For the opposition, Wembanyama is a 7-5 French target. He’s getting all the hype. Sucking up all the attention. ESPN labeled him “the greatest prospect in the history of team sports.” It reached the level of supernatural, as if Wembanyama would emerge in a UFO and evaporate all basketball norms.

And for what? Averaging 21 points in the French League? Shooting 27% on 3-pointers? 47% overall? There’s skepticism.

“He ain’t got no muscle,” Cam Whitmore, a first-round pick for the Rockets, told me a couple weeks ago.

In his Summer League debut Friday, Wembanyama only enhanced the doubts that accompany an ultra thin frame and unreliable 3-pointer. His 27 minutes was a misadventure. The highlight was the pregame anticipation, with the Thomas & Mack Center filling to the brim and Wembanyama standing so tall he had to bend down just to get through the tunnel.

It exceeded the hype of Zion Williamson’s debut four years ago, which was cut short, fittingly, by an injury and an earthquake. But then the whistle blew on Wembanyama and it became apparent — almost immediately — that this would not be a performance of exceptionality.

Rather, Wembanyama was overwhelmed. Sure, there were flashy moments of his dribbling — a deftness and quickness with the ball that looked surreal at Wemby’s height. But he was tired. Outmuscled. He missed 11 of his 13 shots. He committed three turnovers. He was dunked on by Kai Jones, a former 21st overall pick and current marginal NBA player.

“Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing on the court today,” Wembanyama said, “but I’m going to learn for the next game and be ready for the season.”

In other words, patience. The idea of Wembanyama bursting out the gates as the Tour de France took a backhanded slap Friday night.

“He’s going to have to learn our style of play,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said at halftime. “Just to be patient. And pick up what he can pick up as he goes along. He’s not going to get it all at once. He’s got a lot of potential. We’ll see what happens.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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