June 21, 2024

SAN ANTONIO — Tre Jones wasn’t trying to throw an alley-oop. He just wanted to get the ball where only Victor Wembanyama could get it.

The 7-foot-4 rookie took care of the rest.

It was one of several highlight plays from Wembanyama as the San Antonio Spurs defeated a depleted Miami Heat squad, 120-104, on Friday night at the Frost Bank Center.

With a little more than 30 seconds left in the first half, Wembanyama had the ball on the right wing, and Jones, who says he’s 6-foot-2 on a good day, set a ball screen for his rookie teammate.

Wembanyama passed the ball to Jones and immediately started cutting to the basket. As soon as the ball touched Jones’ hands, he let it fly. His intention was a pass. Wembanyama leapt into the air, located the ball once he stepped into the lane, grabbed it with two hands and flushed it home for the slam.

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Victor Wembanyama takes flight on give-and-go alley-oop jam

Victor Wembanyama does a give-and-go with Tre Jones leading to a high-flying dunk.

“Before we knew it, he was dunking it. With ease, too,” Jones said. “It wasn’t like he was reaching for it. It was crazy.”

When asked about the play, Wembanyama smiled.

“Towards me, the problem is rarely that the ball is thrown too high,” Wembanyama said. “It only comes down to how well we know each other.”

It’s only the second preseason game for the Spurs but Wembanyama has been playing with his teammates for weeks in pick-up games and open runs.

Jones said it didn’t take long to realize you could throw the ball just about anywhere and have Wembanyama go get it.

“You see how coordinated he is with how long he is and how tall he is,” Jones said. “You don’t see that very often. You throw it up, he’s able to go get it a lot of times.”

But the alley-oop wasn’t even the play that stood out to some. Spurs guard Devin Vassell, who had 21 points and was 6-of-7 from distance, said the play that jumped out to him was Wembanyama catching the ball a foot inside the three-point line and Eurostepping his way to the basket for a dunk.

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Victor Wembanyama Eurosteps on way to massive flush

Victor Wembanyama gets way up for a huge two-handed jam for the Spurs in transition.

“He didn’t even dribble,” Vassell said. “He is going to make special plays. I’m going to keep talking about it, he is going to make a play every game where you just look down like what the heck just happened.”

Vassell was the recipient of a pass from Wembanyama on two of his three-point baskets. One was when Wembanyama was double-teamed in the post, and he dished it out to a wide-open Vassell towards the top of the key.

“What I felt from the previous game, sometimes when I get the ball I don’t even need to dribble and I see defenders coming to face me and forgetting about their own guy,” Wembanyama said. “When it’s a shooter like Dev, it’s the easy option to pass it out to him.”

Wembanyama finished with a team-high 23 points with four rebounds, four assists and three blocks on 10-of-15 shooting in 23 minutes. He left midway through the third quarter to a raucous applause from the 17,412 in attendance.

“He’s obviously a gifted player who was very humbly trying to find his place,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I called one play for him all night and I think he got over 20. He just did that because he’s a good basketball player and he understands how to play, so we have to make sure that we blend that with everything else that we have.”

After playing all his minutes exclusively at the power forward position in the Spurs’ first preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Popovich and the Spurs experimented with Wembanyama at the center spot against the Heat.

Popovich said how the team deploys Wembanyama will depend on the opposing team’s matchups and how the scouting reports line up.

One lineup tweak the Spurs did use on Friday was starting 6-foot-9, 230-pound Jeremy Sochan at point guard and bringing Jones off the bench. Sochan finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes.

“I think he was really confident, had great pace, (and was) aggressive,” Popovich said. “He did everything we were hoping he would do.”

Wembanyama said having Sochan play the point will just cause more trouble for opponents.

“He’s comfortable with this position,” Wembanyama said. “Everyone trusts him and I think he’s got a good future in that position for sure.”

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