Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama sends warning to any brave soul who tries to dunk on him

Victor Wembanyama sends a warning shot that may prove more powerful than any shot he’s blocked.

Most NBA players won’t challenge San Antonio Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama  at the rim. They certainly won’t do it without a running start or any forward momentum. Apparently, Utah Jazz forward Taylor Hendricks isn’t most players, and he paid the price on Wednesday night.

“He was trying to, of course…” Wembanyama said, pausing as he tried to carefully phrase how to describe Hendricks’ dunk attempt with :10 remaining in a game the Spurs led by six. “Regardless of the challenge it is to sometimes want to dunk on your opponent, it was a bad choice I think.

“You’ve got to be smart,” he continued.

Perhaps it’s a warning shot as big as any of Wemby’s most vicious rejections during his standout rookie season.

Victor Wembanyama’s defensive prowess

Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) has a shot blocked by San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) during the second quarter at Delta Center.

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

At 3.5 blocks per game, Wembanyama easily leads the NBA in blocks. Sophomore center Walker Kessler of the Jazz, whom the Spurs beat 118-111 on Wednesday, is second in the league at 2.5 per game. Three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, also the frontrunner to win the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy this season, is averaging 2.1 rejections per contest.

Teammate Devin Vassell was asked if he’s ever seen a player who changes the geometry of the NBA court the way Wembanyama does.

“Nah, not all all. I get on him sometimes and I’ll say, ‘Vic, why didn’t you block that shot?’ And he’ll already have five or six blocks,” Vassell said. “It’s just crazy, the stuff that we ask from him, that we expect from him but he’s put himself at that level. We expect it from him night in and night out.”

For his part, the French marvel expects the high expectations. Thanks to a combination of measurements and movement never before seen, Wembanyama couldn’t be more clear about his defensive role.

“Trying to cover my teammates and allowing them to take more risks by being there to cover the mistakes,” he said. “Obviously, on offense we play together but it’s also a big thing on defense. Great teams, they work together on defense. I know the areas where I want to be present and that also comes by knowing the opponent.”

Wemby gets back in a groove

In helping the Spurs to a second straight win, Wemby returned after missing Monday’s 104-102 upset win over the Phoenix Suns.

“It’s always the challenge for me, moving my body in the space after having a game off. It just comes with rhythm,” he said. “And also I think the altitude made it a little bit harder for all of us to keep the pace. In these games, we have to rely on other stuff, other things like trusting our teammates, sharing the ball. We had forty assists so this is one of the major reasons we won the game.”

Wembanyama finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five blocks, capping his big night by denying Henricks at the rim. Vassell couldn’t help but continue harping on his teammate’s late-game block.

“That’s a big block at the end when they went to go try and dunk on him. We know that’s not going to happen,” he said. :It helped seal the win and we needed that.”

It’s been true for a good portion of the season. Whatever the Silver and Black have needed, Wemby has provided over the course of a rough year.

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