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19 sec ago - For the first three quarters, the statline wasn't impressive (6 points, 2-of-4 shooting).
In fact, for a while it looked like Victor Wembanyama wouldn't even be the most impressive rookie in San Antonio Wednesday night. That honor would instead go to Dallas Mavericks big man Dereck Lively II, who made his first six shots en route to 16 points off the bench. Then the fourth quarter arrived and Wembanyama erupted for nine points in a three-minute span, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, though the Spurs ended up falling to the Mavs 126-119. Still, Wembanyama set the stage for what many expect could be a Rookie of the Year season in his highly anticipated NBA debut. Our NBA insiders had Wemby's first game covered from all angles, and shared their biggest takeaways from a debut a generation in the making. There was an NBA Finals-like atmosphere on the Spurs' sidelines before Wembanyama's debut. The Spurs credentialed more than 200 media members, representing eight different countries and territories. It seemed like all of them, along with Spurs executives and agents, were filling the sidelines and the baseline on San Antonio's side of the court when Wembanyama emerged from the tunnel for his pregame warmup with just over 74 minutes on the clock, counting down to the most anticipated NBA debut in a generation. Wembanyama was high-fiving fans on both sides as he walked out, his 8-foot wingspan easily able to cover the full width of the tunnel. Dozens and dozens of phones and cameras were pointed at the man of the hour as he walked out to half court and began his pregame routine with some dribbling moves. For the next 20-plus minutes, Wembanyama worked his way around, getting shots up all over the court. Finally, with 48 minutes left on the clock, Wembanyama had a brief chat at the free throw line with Spurs assistant coach Mitch Johnson before heading to the locker room. The pregame show was over. The real show was ready to begin. Wembanyama's previous debuts -- for summer league in Las Vegas and in the preseason in Oklahoma City -- both had their fair share of fan fare, but nothing like Wednesday's sellout crowd of 18,947 in San Antonio, most of whom were in their seats long before tipoff, ready for the arrival of the third No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. Wembanyama showed flashes of his immense talent on both ends of the floor in his debut. He also demonstrated the considerable work the Spurs' coaching staff has to do to figure out how to best utilize him. Starting an unconventional lineup featuring three big men and no point guard, the clear lack of shooting and playmaking for the Spurs limited Wembanyama to being almost exclusively a jump-shooter for long stretches; all four of his field goal attempts in the first three quarters came from beyond the arc. Wembanyama's best minutes came in the fourth quarter alongside backup point guard Tre Jones in more conventional lineups where he was able to play to his strengths as a pick-and-roll screener, post threat and rim runner, while still having the freedom to create 1-on-1 and show off his dynamic shotmaking. Foul trouble was really the story of the night, limiting Wembanyama to just 23 minutes, a surprising outcome after he fouled out of just a single contest in more than 60 games in France last season (unlike the NBA, FIBA rules allow for just five fouls in 40 minutes). It wasn't his lack of strength or the physicality of the NBA that got him, but rather silly fouls on both ends of the floor that plagued his debut, something that is easy to chalk up to nerves. Wembanyama still showed glimpses of what made him the No. 1 pick, blocking Kyrie Irving's jump shot on the first play of the game, and knocking down three gorgeous 3-pointers with his unguardably high release point. A pick-and-roll lob finish from Devin Vassell midway through the fourth quarter also stood out. As the Spurs continue to shape their roster around him and learn how to best put him in positions to succeed, we'll undoubtedly see more and more of what makes Wembanyama such a special prospect.