It’s Victor Wembanyama’s galaxy. We’re just lucky enough to exist in it and watch his otherworldly talent on full display.
The San Antonio Spurs rookie made his NBA regular season debut at home against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night. Wemby promptly hit two three-pointers within his first seven minutes of action, sending fans inside Frost Bank Center into a frenzy.
Further back east, the Indiana Pacers dropped 143 points against the Washington Wizards. While all eyes were on the Jordan Poole (party), Indiana calmly connected on 20 three-point attempts with eight players scoring in double-digits.
Sans the suspended Ja Morant, one might think that the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies game lacked star power. Those people would be 100% wrong as Zion Williamson did his thing for the road team. James Harden might want all of the attention. But the Los Angeles Clippers proved they might not need him. Is our long national beard nightmare coming to an end?
Here are five NBA things to know from Wednesday’s action with a look forward to what promises to be a great doubleheader on Thursday as the 2023-24 regular season really gets going.
Related: 2023-24 NBA Playoff predictions
Victor Wembanyama brings intrigue, playoff intensity
The most-anticipated NBA debut since a kid from Akron by the name of LeBron James stepped on the court in Cleveland some 20 years ago took place in San Antonio Wednesday night. ESPN was live in Texas to cover a Spurs team that has won a combined 56 games over the past two seasons. And it was not for Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Simply put, it was Wemby time in the Lone Star State.
Even before tip-off, the French sensation was awing fans in San Antonio.
Once the game started, this 7-foot-4 alien among mortals nailed two three-pointers in the first quarter alone.
The Spurs ended up dropping a two-year high 43 points in the first quarter before Doncic got on a roll (33 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) en route to just the third-ever triple-double in a season opener. It led to a 126-119 Mavericks win.
Despite Dallas seemingly pulling away and Wemby scoring just six points through three quarters, the rookie constructed a comeback by scoring nine points in the final stanza. As this run was happening, Spurs fans were going hog wild.
- Victor Wembanyama stats: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
In the end, Dallas pulled away with an 8-0 run as Doncic and fellow star Kyrie Irving got going. But if this one matchup between the Texas rivals is an indication, it’s going to be a beautiful thing moving forward.
Showtime in Los Angeles
No James Harden? That’s more than fine. Relying on a “watered-down” iteration of Russell Westbrook? No problem. Hoping Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can stay healthy? It was easy. At least for one night, Ty Lue’s plans for the Clippers in what could be a swan song for the current iteration of the team worked out like aces.
George and Leonard combined for 50 points. Each finished at least plus-23 when on the court. Bones Hyland joined Westbrook in combining for 28 points and 16 assists from the point as Los Angeles easily dispatched of an overmatched Portland Trail Blazers squad at home by the score of 123-111. It wasn’t even that close with the Clips finding themselves up 26 at the end of three.
Lue instituted a different philosophy during training camp. Go hard or go home. The idea was to make sure the Clippers took the regular season seriously. “The biggest thing is having a camp where everyone goes 100% and goes full speed and not have restrictions,” Lue said ahead of the opener. About that? The Clippers went hard Wednesday night in making Portland look like a junior varsity team.
Indiana Pacers break 33-year NBA mark
You couldn’t have had Indiana scoring 143 points on your NBA Bingo card leading up to Wednesday’s action. If you did, this one scribe has a free room right off the Strip in Las Vegas (DMs accepted). In defeating Washington at home Wednesday evening, Indiana put up the most points for a team in a season opener since 1990.
Signed to a free-agent contract this past summer, Bruce Brown set a career high with six three-pointers in the win. The dude was on absolute fire.
Remember when pundits criticized the Pacers for handing Brown a two-year, $45 million contract during the summer? Those were fun times. He finished with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting. The recently-extended Tyrese Haliburton added 20 points and 11 assists while the Pacers’ bench went off for 59 points. Though, it’s too early to tell whether this was a product of Indiana’s depth or the Wizards’ being allergic to actual defense. Jordan (cough, cough) Poole.
Get out of Town(s): Karl-Anthony Towns’ no-good night
Leading up to the 2023-24 NBA season, there was a lot of talk about Towns’ future with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The fit of Towns and fellow big man Rudy Gobert just didn’t work out in their first run together. Meanwhile, Towns’ regression became real during the ‘Wolves short-lived postseason run.
Would things change this season? If one game is any indication, the clear answer to that is no. Towns was a downright disaster as Minnesota dropped its opener on the road to the Toronto Raptors, 97-94. He shot 8-of-25 from the field, including 2-of-10 from distance. Towns also turned the ball over four times.
It didn’t help that Anthony Edwards also struggled (8-of-27 shooting). But Minnesota looks to be tapped out as a bottom-end playoff team or play-in contender. It will lead to renewed chatter ahead of the in-season NBA trade deadline relating to Towns.
Anyone care about James Harden anymore?
This was the NBA storyline for the final few weeks of the offseason. Would James Harden’s trade request be granted by the Philadelphia 76ers? Would the former league MVP and drama king calling Sixers front office head Daryl Morey a “liar” be part of the NBA lexicon to open the 2023-24 season?
Even as games tipped off Wednesday evening, Harden was in the news after reports that the Los Angeles Clippers are no longer engaging Philadelphia in trade talks for the star guard.
About all of that? It doesn’t really matter anymore. Kristaps Porzingis put up a record performance in the big man’s debut for the Boston Celtics against his former New York Knicks team. Max Strus dropped a team-high 27 points in his debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers as they took out the Brooklyn Nets. Cade Cunningham scored 30 for the Detroit Pistons despite their loss to Strus’ former Heat team.
Who is that James Harden guy, again? We’ll hear more about it as the Philadelphia 76ers open their season Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. But it won’t be the story. Rather, it will be all about Damian Lillard’s regular-season debut with the Bucks as he teams up with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It will be about Kevin Durant and LeBron James going up against one another as the Phoenix Suns visit the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be about those stars actually taking to the court. The time for NBA petty and drama will come soon enough. It just won’t be now. Hear us, Mr. Harden?
Five more things I know about the NBA today
- Rookie No. 2 pick Brandon Miller dropped eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as his Charlotte Hornets dispatched of the Atlanta Hawks at home on Wednesday. Mavericks first-round pick Dereck Lively dropped 16 points and nabbed 10 rebounds while finishing plus-20 in 31 minutes Wednesday evening. No, Victor Wembanyama isn’t the only NBA rookie that will make headlines this season.
- New York Knicks fans chanting “(expletive) Porzingis” Wednesday night as their former star player put up a record performance against them is prime New York Knicks fans. Kristaps Porzingis dropped 30 points in the Boston Celtics win over New York. It’s the most for a Celtics player in a debut in franchise history. It happened inside Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, Julius Randle shot 5-of-22 for the home team. Good old Knickerbockers basketball, aye?
- Zion Williamson can still hoop. In case you forgot Williamson’s dominance during his Duke days or when he’s been on the court in the NBA, the big man reminded us Wednesday evening. Williamson dropped 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds in 32 minutes of action as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated Memphis 111-104 on the road.
- Harrison Barnes still exists and Malik Monk can throw down. The Sacramento Kings opened their season on the road against the Utah Jazz, absolutely destroying the home team by the score of 130-114. As consistent as they come since entering the NBA, Barnes went for a team-high 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Monk threw down a dunk that could stand the test of time as the best of the 2023-24 NBA season.
- I know I’ll be tuning in to to watch Thursday night’s doubleheader on TNT. I also know that the NBA is pretty brilliant when it comes to scheduling. After having Kevin Durant open his season against the star’s former Golden State Warriors squad on Tuesday, we’re getting KD going up against King James. It’s a reminder of championship clashes of the past. Oh, and look for major drama as Dame makes his debut at home against Joel Embiid. The NBA markets its stars. Perhaps, MLB and other sports should follow suit.