Victor Wembanyama, Spurs finding groove with Rockets on deck

Field Level Media

March 05, 2024 at 1:00 am.

The confluence of rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama excelling individually with the Spurs succeeding collectively might have finally arrived in the past week, with San Antonio claiming back-to-back victories over playoff contenders on the heels of losing 12 of 13 games.

The Spurs, who will visit the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, earned consecutive double-digit victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers with Wembanyama leading the way.

He followed a 28-point, 13-rebound, seven-assist, five-block performance against the Thunder with 31 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six blocks vs. the Pacers.

Wembanyama was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the month of February on Monday after averaging 21.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.9 blocks across 12 games.

“I think we are realizing our strengths more and more and having each other’s backs,” Wembanyama said. “We want to be great, and every game matters.

“It goes to sometimes narrowing what we do on the court, like some set plays just so everyone has their role and we can actually get better at this. For me, I’m trying to help my teammates more on defense — this is what the coaches want me to do — and cover their backs sometimes, and it’s something I think I’ve been better (at).”

Wembanyama thriving on his own is no surprise. The Spurs coming into their own in support of the No. 1 overall pick of the 2023 draft is noteworthy.

“We all see that he has skills, whether it’s blocking shots or making an important 3, making a steal, whatever it might be,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “But the most … unique quality he has at his age is the composure, where if there’s a good play, there’s a bad play, he’s the same. And he’s class all the time on the court. His teammates realize he’s mature way beyond his years and he proves it every night.”

The Rockets finally ceded to the inevitable over the weekend when coach Ime Udoka announced that second-year forward Tari Eason was scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his left tibia on Monday. Eason was to have a bone graft to treat a benign growth.

Udoka described the condition as pre-existing, with Eason having suffered an aggravation during the preseason. Eason, named to the All-Rookie team for the 2022-23 campaign, logged 22 games this season, with his last game action coming on Jan. 1 against the Detroit Pistons. He was an energetic force off the Houston bench, thriving on the glass and defensively.

“We thought rest and rehab, he could get over it that way, but every time he ramped up, the pain came right back,” Udoka said. “After seeing all the specialists and decision-makers, came to the decision that it’s best to have surgery Monday.”

The Rockets, 3-7 over their past 10, are six games out of the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Tuesday marks the third meeting of the season between the teams, who have split the first two contests.

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