(Los Angeles) NBA legend, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is undertaking a “watching” phase of his new nugget, Victor Wembanyama, whom he hopes, at age 74, will lead him to the top for one last challenge.
The Spurs had a string of bad games and losses (six straight) in November, but Gregg Popovich warned that time will have to be given to Wembanya, the No. 1 pick in June’s draft and pressed at No. 19 because of high expectations. , crazy. How can you not believe this longtime master, the most successful coach in NBA history, in place since 1996?
“There is no magic formula, he has to go through many phases,” warned “Pop” at the beginning of the season. “Fortunately, he is an intelligent, serious, conscientious young man. He will surely become a great player, but first he has to learn. He listens and understands everything, it’s that simple. His parents did a great job. It’s up to me not to spoil everything.”
No one imagines the failure of the American, the one who could lead David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to the top, winning five championships in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 in six contested finals (lost in 2013 . ).
Far from the NBA Finals that Spurs fans are dreaming of again, Popovich first wants to understand the French giant (2.24 m) with unique agility for his size.
“We promised with the staff that we would watch him for a while, he is only 19 years old. We want to let him do that and see where he feels best. We don’t yet know what his game will look like in the future. Where will it be most effective? In a racket? In transition? On the wing? We give him the freedom to shoot from afar. I don’t want to exaggerate.”
The only point the coach insists on: “firmness in defense. »
This game, which has not yet been built with systems around French, may explain the numerous calls from “Wemby” that were not served by his teammates for his first NBA games since October 25th.
In a sometimes uncertain league, Wembanyama was pleased to arrive in the Spurs’ “cocoon,” where Popovich, who overplays his grumpy side, likes to reflect and see his players grow.
“I had “Pop” on my phone before the draft. We will play basketball, eat together, enjoy ourselves, have fun. In one conversation with him, I realized experience and knowledge,” Wembanyama says of his new Jedi teacher.
“He’s as paternal as we know how to do in France,” agrees Jacques Monclar, former coach and international player consultant for beIN Sports. “It’s a great meeting with Victor. He is also a coach who is used to international players.”
Popović is international by birth, with a Serbian father and a Croatian mother. This former officer, captain of the US Armed Forces team, traveled to Eastern Europe and the USSR in the 1980s, becoming aware of the richness of basketball outside the US.
Without a filter, this longtime critic of former President Donald Trump paid this week for the scalp of pro-Trump Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a “stupid little man” who blocks promotions in the military to oppose abortion policies.
At 74, the Hall of Famer has signed a five-year contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs for what appears to be one last challenge, a “makeover” hailed by his former protégé Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors.
“Remodeling what?” Am I coming out of asylum or depression? Steve is an ass,” Popovich mock-offended.
In recent days, however, he sometimes seemed irritated. “You’ve got to get tired of getting beat on the ass,” he said Tuesday after another tough loss in Oklahoma City (123-87).
Last in the Western Association last season (22 wins – 60 losses), the Spurs (3 wins – 8 losses so far) really need success, to “confirm their development”. “Winning is an important factor in learning,” assures the coach.
See you against Sacramento on Friday to keep growing.