Victor Wembanyama, Spurs seek big rebound effort at Nets
Posted on: 09 Feb, 2024 at 11:05 PM
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Victor Wembanyama is still adjusting to the rigors of an 82-game NBA schedule after putting up impressive numbers in 34 games during his final season in France.
Wembanyama will conclude a nine-day stretch in which he plays five games and is coming off his lowest rebound total of his rookie season when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
Wembanyama heads into his 47th NBA game leading all rookies by averaging 20.3 points and 10.1 rebounds, but in Thursday's 127-111 loss at Orlando, he grabbed a season-low one rebound in 22:32. While he scored 15 points, Wembayama was held under 10 boards for the 20th time and failed to reach at least five rebounds for the second time.
Wembanyama's quiet game on the glass occurred on the second night of a back-to-back and happened after he totaled 41 in his previous three contests.
"It's a new experience for him," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He'll get a certain period where he'll run out of gas and then he gets it back again. Who doesn't? It's a new thing playing four games in a week."
Besides hoping to see a better-rested version of Wembanyama, the Spurs are hoping to stop a six-game losing streak after allowing the most points of their current skid and a season-high 59.8 percent shooting by an opponent on Thursday.
"Everybody has these high expectations for him and he makes these crazy plays and does crazy stuff every game, but he just turned 20. He's learning," San Antonio guard Devin Vassell said. "We've got to help him out, too. We can't just throw him in the fire and expect him to win the game. ... We have to make the game easier for him."
Vassell helped Wembanyama by scoring 30 points for his third career 30-point game. Each of Vassell's 30-point games occurred this season, and the fourth-year guard is averaging 24.8 points in his past four contests.
The Nets are trying to avoid a fourth straight loss and will integrate Dennis Schroder into the lineup after acquiring the guard from the Toronto Raptors at Thursday's trade deadline for Spencer Dinwiddie.
Schroder was part of a deadline that saw the Nets save about $5 million in salary cap space by also trading Royce O'Neale to the Phoenix Suns.
The moves occurred a year after the trade requests of superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were granted, and the Nets are 33-46 since the 2022-23 deadline. After the deal Thursday, the Nets dropped to 7-21 in their past 28 games by taking a 118-95 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I have utmost faith in this group to go out there and put a sustainable product on the floor," Nets general manager Sean Marks said. "I mean, that's going to be a goal here, that we can compete night in and night out, something that the fans can get behind."
Marks spoke at halftime Thursday, and then the Nets gave up 21 straight points to start the second half.
Mikal Bridges scored 26 points and has scored at least 25 in consecutive games for the fourth time this season. Cam Thomas added 17, but the Nets shot 39.8 percent from the floor and equaled their third-lowest point total of the season.
Brooklyn also was without starters Dorian Finney-Smith (sprained left ankle), Cameron Johnson (left adductor tightness) and key reserve Lonnie Walker IV (left hamstring tightness).
Finney-Smith and Johnson are expected to be out Saturday while Walker could return.
- Field Level Media