Luka Doncic wowed by Victor Wembanyama’s ‘unbelievable’ talent


DALLAS — Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who hopes to be in the opposing lineup when Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama makes his NBA debut Wednesday night, is as impressed as everyone else with the league’s latest European sensation.

“It’s pretty crazy what he does on the court,” Doncic said of the No. 1 pick in the draft. “What’s he — 2 meters [tall]? Oh, 7-4? No, the things he does for that length, it’s unbelievable the way he moves, the way he handles the ball, shoots the ball, and obviously the blocking. So, I’ve been watching, and he’s an amazing player.”

Doncic is officially listed as questionable for the Mavs’ season opener in San Antonio due to the left calf strain he suffered during an Oct. 9 practice in Madrid. He returned to practice the past two days.

“The calf’s fine, pretty fine, but that what I’m saying after I went through two practices.” Doncic said after Tuesday’s workout. “So, let’s see how it feels tomorrow.”

There’s an extraordinary amount of anticipation about the Mavs-Spurs game, which will be televised on ESPN, because of the buzz around Wembanyama. The 19-year-old Frenchman was widely considered the most prized draft prospect in at least a generation.

His preseason performance did nothing to diminish that hype, as Wembanyama, officially listed at 7-foot-3, averaged 19.3 points and 2.8 blocks in only 20.9 minutes per game, generating many highlights with his astounding blend of size, skill and athleticism.

Wembanyama, who plays power forward for the Spurs, has displayed such a knack for swatting 3-point shots that the Mavs came up with an unconventional way to prepare for it during practice. Dallas assistant coach God Shammgod roamed the perimeter waving padded sticks, which are typically used to simulate big men contesting shots in the paint.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, a Hall of Fame point guard, struggled to come up with a comparison for Wembanyama.

“He’s in a class of his own,” Kidd said. “7-5, can put it on the floor, can shoot it, can block shots, can block jumpers. So, I mean, maybe a combination of Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and I don’t know who else. That’s the closest person I can think that I’ve worked with that I’ve seen who can put it on the floor, [is] athletic defensively, will block shots and can shoot the 3. So, nothing against Giannis — Giannis didn’t shoot the ball like Victor does, but you got to be aware where he’s at, at all times on both sides of the floor.”

Doncic, the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year and who has been a first-team All-NBA selection the past four seasons, has a strong case as the most accomplished European teen prospect ever. His credentials before being drafted included being the youngest EuroLeague MVP in history and winning a EuroLeague title with Real Madrid and a EuroBasket championship with the Slovenian national team.

Wembanyama didn’t leave Europe with that sort of championship pedigree against the continent’s best competition, as his hometown Metropolitans 92 squad lost in France’s LNB Pro A’s finals last season and he has yet to play for his country’s senior national team. However, Doncic said the hype around Wembanyama far exceeds what he dealt with as a rookie.

“I don’t think I was even close, but maybe I inspired some Europe-to-U.S. transitions,” Doncic said. “But my advice would be, just like I always say, have fun with the game. Obviously he’s going to have a lot of pressure. He’s probably one of the best, if not the best, prospects ever come to the NBA. But he’s showed he could play, so I don’t think he should be worried about anything.”

Source : ESPN