Thursday, September 28 2023

San Antonio Spurs managing partner Peter J. Holt had a clear line of sight to Mark Tatum’s flip cards. Before the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner could even say that the Charlotte Hornets were picking second in the draft, Holt pounded the table and started to jump out of his chair. Once Tatum’s words became official, Holt screamed “Woo!” and “Let’s Go!” in jubilation. 

Everything the Spurs had been working towards — entering a rebuilding phase and developing young talent while vying for the No. 1 pick — was felt with the reward of a ping pong ball. San Antonio has won the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, and that rebuild? Forget about the process. San Antonio is getting the most unique prospect the NBA has ever seen, and the best since LeBron James in 2003. It marked the third time the Spurs have won the draft lottery, and how about this company for the 7-foot-3 Frenchman — David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997 marked the other two occurrences. 

“I think I jumped the gun on my reaction, apologies to Charlotte and Mark (Tatum), I told him sorry afterwards — but I thought I was going to pass out I was so excited,” Holt, who kept a small golden key inside his suit jacket as a good luck charm, said following the lottery. “I felt a little bad that I jumped the gun before they even called our name, but this is so thrilling. The game of basketball is so much fun, and the Spurs are full of joy and history, and a living legacy that’s just an honor to be a part of it.” 

The Spurs should be filled with joy, because after four years of sub-.500 records and no playoff appearances, along with what will be a seven-year drought without a postseason victory when 2024 rolls around, the entire complexion of the franchise just changed. 

For Spurs general manager Brian Wright, who was the Spurs representative in the drawing room ahead of the public announcement, the lead up to the lottery included an unintentional fasting. He couldn’t even think about food, going over 24 hours without eating anything. 

“I just couldn’t eat all day man,” Wright said. “I woke up at 5 a.m. and wish I could have gone to sleep. That didn’t happen, and we hit the ground running. You never know with these things. We got lucky tonight. Then, the numbers start to come up, and you see what’s happening. This is an incredible day, and we’re incredibly excited. We have amazing people in this organization from Pop (Gregg Popovich) to RC (Buford) to the people that don’t get as much love. We love the city of San Antonio, the community and this game. This is special.” 

All Wembanyama has done with Metropolitans 92, the LNB Pro A team in France, is average 21.6 points on 47% shooting, 10.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in just over 32 minutes per game. 


“He’s nothing we have ever seen before in the game of basketball,” one scout told FOX Sports as part of a running survey conducted with five talent evaluators from different NBA teams. “There are always changing eras of basketball, and right now we are in this space ball era where it’s all about what you can do to space the floor. How do you combat that? With size and skill. Victor Wembanyama is one of one in those categories.”

He will instantly become the franchise centerpiece, surrounded by a young and rising core of Keldon Johnson (23), Devin Vassell (22), Tre Jones (23), Malaki Branham (20) and Jeremy Sochan (19). 

The other layer to the Spurs winning the lottery? San Antonio has had two great Frenchman in its history with four-time champion Tony Parker (2001-18 with Spurs) and 2014 champion Boris Diaw (2012-16 with Spurs), who both have a connection to Wembanyama. Get this: Boris Diaw is the president of Metropolitans 92 of LNB Pro A and Tony Parker is the majority owner of ASVEL Basket, two of the three teams Wembanyama has played for. 

“Well, we probably don’t need a translator,” Wright said when asked about the Spurs and their success with players from France. “We’ve had some great French players come through, and what they’ve meant to basketball and that country, and what Victor could mean to that country and basketball globally is really exciting. Having that connectivity is great for our organization and I think it will be great for him to get assimilated and acclimated to what we do and just being a part of our community.” 

“The success with international players always dates back to Pop and RC,” Wright added. “Pop, from the time he was playing, always knew there was talent all over the world. They made it their mission to go search that out before a lot of teams knew there were NBA players in those places.” 

The Spurs made it a mission to reach Tuesday night in Chicago, and give themselves a puncher’s chance at winning a generational lottery. 

“Years ago, we saw him,” Wright said. “When you see him (Wembanyama), it’s more than just, ‘It would be cool to get him.’ You start to put actual plans in place to see if you can execute something (to get him). We’re just fortunate, and we got lucky tonight.” 

Whichever team Wembanyama landed with, there’s so much more than the player heading to the market. He has this aura about him and a presence that’s only growing, which will take over the city he plays in. 

“When you use the term generational talent, that goes beyond basketball abilities,” Wright said. “When you talk about generational talents, it’s beyond your ability to make a shot. And as we’ve studied Victor, he is very in-depth with everything that he does.”

Before he even steps on the stage at the Barclays Center on June 22 to make it official with his organization, everything Wemby has done to this point? It meant that on Tuesday night, a simple ping pong ball changed everything about the San Antonio Spurs and their future. 

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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Source: FOX Sports


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