Wemby Watch: Nikola Jokic shares ‘insights’ with Victor Wembanyama

Stay up to date on No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama during his rookie campaign with the San Antonio Spurs. A new Wemby Watch drops every Sunday during the season.

Work in progress ⏳

Technically, the Spurs are on the road. But the club is hosting a pair of games at the Moody Center in Austin as part of the I-35 Series established last season.

Game 1 of the series blessed a record-setting crowd of 16,223 with another showdown featuring Wembanyama and two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic. Denver topped San Antonio 117-106, but the rookie walked away with valuable lessons, and even received insights on the court during a dead-ball situation from the reigning Finals MVP.

“Just some insights on what not to do on defense,” Wembanyama reluctantly shared when asked what Jokic walked over to tell him. “At the same time, [he is] somebody I want to compete against for years and give 100% against, also someone I respect a lot. So, I hope there’s gonna be great battles [in] the future.”

Wembanyama stuffed the Nuggets big man’s shot on the first possession of the game. From there, Denver treated the 20-year-old to a basketball clinic, with Jokic dropping 31 points on a blistering 13-of-19 shooting.

The Nuggets often stationed Aaron Gordon in the post, leaving Jokic to roam the perimeter, patiently monitoring Wembanyama’s every move. Whenever the French phenom decided to drift towards Gordon, the paint opened for Jokic, enabling him to hit the rookie with an array of buckets from his bag, mainly floaters.

Jokic simply lofted those shots over Wembanyama’s massive reach.

The Serbian kept Wembanyama guessing throughout the night, bulldozing the rookie at times with his 6-foot-11, 284-pound frame.

“They weren’t scared of challenging me at the rim,” said Wembanyama, who finished with 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with nine assists and three blocks.

The education of Wembayama continues Sunday at the Moody Center in Austin, as San Antonio hosts the Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. ET on NBATV.

DPOY case ✋

Shoutout to French journalist Theo Quintard for asking the question and then graciously translating a gem of a quote from Wembanyama. Asked by Quintard in French about Wembanyama’s prospects for winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the rookie pointed out it’s just a matter of time before he becomes the perennial favorite.

“I know that Rudy [Gobert] has a very good chance of winning it this year, and it would be well deserved,” Wembanyama said to Quintard. “Let him win it now, because after that, it’s no longer his turn.”


If you didn’t know, several talented French journalists have moved to San Antonio solely to cover Wembanyama. Here are a few for you to follow on the social media site X: Quintard, Vincent Pialat, Benjamin Moubeche and Maxime Aubin.

In the news 🗞

Wembanyama continues to lead colleague Steve Aschburner’s Kia Rookie Ladder, followed by Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren at No. 2.

On the road ✈️

That’s certainly still challenging for Wembanyama, and the rookie dove into what he’s been dealing with ahead of Friday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.

“Life on the road has been different from being home obviously because we have to focus on different things,” he said. “We have a very, very clear routine because everything is adapted. In the hotels, for example, we get all of our breakfasts at this time. We do practice at this time.”

Apparently, even the hotel beds are adapted to accommodate Wemby’s 7-foot-4 frame.

The team typically asks the various hotels to install extensions onto the beds, he said.

Still, catching the requisite Z’s on the road is difficult for the 20-year-old, who usually powers down his phone most nights at 9:30 p.m., and then reads for an hour before lights out as part of a strict rest routine. Wembanyama admitted the adjustment has been tough.

“I would say [the biggest adjustment is] sleeping whenever you can and catching up, especially because keeping a consistent sleeping schedule is impossible. I remember at the All-Star break, the one day I didn’t put [on] an alarm with no practice [scheduled], I woke up at like 1:30 p.m., and I didn’t know how this happened. So, a lot of catching up.”

Eye-opening 👀

Wembanyama discussed the most eye-opening aspect of his rookie season up to this point, and interestingly, it’s reminiscent of what coach Gregg Popovich used to discuss often with former Spur Kawhi Leonard, when the young forward was starting to develop into a superstar.

“The most eye-opening, I would say [is] how the best players, they’re so consistent. This is the hard thing, being consistent through 82 games,” Wembanyama said. “Taking the challenge every night, and for the superstars in this league, working through the scouting report of the opponents, working through pain, working through adversity. This is what’s impressed me.”

Popovich mentioned something similar to NBA.com nearly 10 years ago when explaining some of the key factors in Leonard’s meteoric rise.

Just before nearly every game, Popovich would pull aside Leonard and explain that “the thing that makes players great is consistency. Go out there every night and do what Timmy’s [Duncan] done in his career or Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe [Bryant]. Most players don’t even know what that’s like to have that kind of standard, that kind of responsibility night after night.”

It’s clear that Wembanyama is learning, though.

“We’ve got to be better at every aspect of the game, at least a little bit,” he said. “This goes with experience, maturity. Consistency is the hard thing. Being present as much [as possible] while facing whoever is in front of us. We’ve fallen short a lot of times this season.”

Circle On Calendar 📅

The Spurs host the Suns for a two-game set, beginning Saturday (8 ET, NBA League Pass) and concluding next Monday (8 ET, League Pass). Wembanyama is 2-0 against Kevin Durant this season after defeating the Suns twice in Phoenix back in November.

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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