Victor Wembanyama has Spurs gearing up for franchise takeover

Victor Wembanyama’s impressive rookie year left an unmistakable mark on the key members of his supporting cast.

Spurs' Victor Wembanyama, Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan

There were times during the season some wondered whether the San Antonio Spurs’ incumbent platers realized they had generational talent Victor Wembanyama on their team. But instances where the 7-foot-4 phenom wouldn’t touch the ball gave way to Wembanyama’s brilliance as his rookie campaign went on.

Fans and analysts weren’t the only ones who noticed.

“I think he’s like, ‘I’m here, I’ve arrived’ and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. That’s the mindset that he has to have,” Devin Vassell said about where his superstar teammate was to end the season.

“[Wembanyama] has gotten better offensively and defensively throughout the year,” he continued. “I think it’s the mindset he has now that there’s ‘nobody on the court that can mess with me.’ That’s what we need.”

Spurs’ young core ready to follow Victor Wembanyama’s lead

Los Angeles Lakers guard LeBron James (23) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forwards Keldon Johnson (3), Victor Wembanyama (1) and forward Jeremy Sochan (10) during the first half at Frost Bank CenterScott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Vassell spoke at length about Wemby’s growth.

“I feel like it’s a demeanor thing for him. It might sound cliche but he has that dog in him. He was upset about the refs last game [the Spurs second-to-last game of the season vs. the Denver Nuggets] and he comes back and he hits those threes. He’s just fired up. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] tried to dunk on him and it wasn’t happening,” he said, alluding to the early January game in which the first pick in last summer’s draft went toe to toe with the Greek Freak.

“I was surprised every game,” Vassell said of Wembanyama.  “He had triple-double with blocks.”

The Spurs second leading scorer then recalled, best he could, a Wembanyama moment that left him in awe. And he didn’t stop there.

“What was the game? It was the first possession, he came down and shot it from the logo. It was our first bucket. It was home. I don’t remember exactly when. It was, like, the first possession, he tips it, we get it back and he shoots it from the logo. I looked at him, like, ‘Bro, are you serious?’ He just starts laughing and I said, ‘Yeah, this is insane.’

“The Milwaukee game, he goes behind his back and he dunks. There’s so many plays that I could sit here and say, ‘It’s not real,’ He did a Shamgod to a spin move and I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s just making up stuff at this point.’ It’s crazy to watch, crazy to see,” Vassell concluded.

San Antonio’s third-leading scorer, Keldon Johnson, noted that the Wembanyama we saw toward the end of the season was not the same player we’d seen early on.

“At the beginning of the year, he showed flashes of ‘Vic does this really well,’ but he showed flashes. As he adjusted to the long season, now it’s boom. As players, we worked out with him during the summer, we’ve seen what Victor would do in the season while you would just see flashes and flashes. Every game he’s putting on a clinic and doing the things that we’re accustomed to him doing.”

What the Spurs want to get accustomed to now is winning. Vassell says Wemby’s play is the catalyst.

“That just makes us want to get better. We know we’re going to be in certain positions where we’re focused on the playoffs. We want to get into the playoffs. We want to be a contender. We want to get those spots and that just makes us want to get better, quicker.”

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