Spurs’ 5×5 star Victor Wembanyama pays first visit to Jazz

By Thomson Reuters Feb 24, 2024 | 8:52 PM

Utah Jazz fans will get their first opportunity to see French rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama on Sunday night when the San Antonio Spurs visit Salt Lake City.

No less an authority than LeBron James could tell them they’re about to be super impressed.

After James led the Los Angeles Lakers past the visiting Spurs 123-118 on Friday night, the 20-time All-Star gushed about the 20-year-old Wembanyama. James had good reason.

Wembanyama compiled a historic performance in the 123-118 loss, totaling a rare 5×5 (minimum five in each category): 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five blocked shots and five steals.

In doing so, he became the youngest player in NBA history to achieve a 5×5 and only the 15th player overall.

“He doesn’t have a ceiling,” James said. “He can do whatever he wants to do in his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts the work in, just from the outside looking in. … I said a long time ago how special he was, and it’s really that simple.”

Wembanyama nearly recorded the feat one game earlier, coming up one assist short on Thursday in Sacramento. Remarkably, he hit the mark quicker than any NBA player ever, needing only 30 minutes and 55 seconds.

Wembanyama also became only the second player ever — after Michael Jordan — to notch five steals and five blocks in consecutive games, but he made clear that he’s more interested in another statistic: wins.

“I wonder if (Jordan) did it in wins, not losses,” he said. “To me, it’s secondary. Hopefully, in the future we can look back and see this as a good performance, but as of today, I can’t be satisfied in a loss.”

The Jazz and Spurs come into this matchup on losing streaks. Utah has lost five straight, and San Antonio three.

Utah has also lost four consecutive at home, all since starting a five-game homestand. The most recent of those defeats was a rough 115-107 setback to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night. Lauri Markkanen led the team with 21 points, while Collin Sexton scored 17 and Keyonte George 16. The Jazz hit only 9 of 39 from 3-point range.

“When you have a night of 19 turnovers and you compound that with it being a night that we really struggled shooting the ball from 3, it’s a hard game to win,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said.

One bright spot for the Jazz in that loss: rookie Taylor Hendricks. In his first career start, Hendricks matched a career high in points (12) and set a high in rebounds (nine) despite not playing the fourth quarter.

It was another sign that the Jazz are moving forward with their young players, although they’ve yet to win since trading away rotation regulars Kelly Olynyk, Simone Fontecchio and Ochai Agbaji before the trade deadline a couple of weeks ago.

Utah won the first game between these two teams in San Antonio on Dec. 26, 130-118. Wembanyama had 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting with seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists.

The Spurs and Jazz play one more time in Utah on March 27.

–Field Level Media