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Victor Wembanyama’s 1st All-Star weekend awaits, and it’ll be hectic for the Spurs rookie

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Victor Wembanyama’s first NBA All-Star experience will be hectic, just like everything else has seemed so far in his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs.

He’s going to the Tech Summit, the league’s thinktank that kicks off the All-Star festivities on Friday morning. He’ll have a slate of media responsibilities. He’ll play in the Rising Stars games Friday and the skills competition on Saturday. There will surely be opportunities for as many other appearances as he wants to make.

It’s a lot. If how Wembanyama has handled his first few months in the NBA is any indication, he’ll make it all seem like a breeze.

“Honestly, my mind has been so focused on our season that I haven’t thought about it too much,” Wembanyama said. “It’s probably going to hit once I’m there. And it’s definitely going to be a special experience. I’m looking forward to it. And I wonder how it is to see … the All-Star teams, seeing this many great players together.”

The 20-year-old, nearly 7-foot-4 rookie’s initiation to the NBA world has drawn rave reviews in many ways. He’s the favorite to win rookie of the year, he just had a triple-double with blocks as one of the categories — the first in the league in more than three years – and his numbers are on a historic pace.

Wembanyama is headed into the All-Star break averaging 20.5 points, 10 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. The last player to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots per game was Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000. He won the MVP award that season — averaging 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds and three blocks.

If Wembanyama stays over that 20-10-3 stat threshold, he’d become the 10th player to do so for a full season. The other nine: Hakeem Olajuwon (who did it nine times), David Robinson (seven), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (seven), Alonzo Mourning (three), Patrick Ewing (three), O’Neal (twice), Bob McAdoo (once), Elvin Hayes (once) and Bob Lanier (once).

Those nine are all in the Hall of Fame. Wembanyama isn’t there yet, obviously. The first few months of his NBA life sure make it seem like he’ll one day be headed down that path.

“Wemby, I can’t say his name correctly, that guy, it’s crazy for how talented and how big he is,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Added Heat center Bam Adebayo: “He’s going to be great in this league. He has the right coach around him. He has the right mindset. He wants to win. You can see it in the way he plays. He passes the ball, he does the little things, he’s 7-4 and doing stuff like that. I think he’ll do great in this league.”

The playoffs aren’t in the cards for San Antonio this year: The Spurs are 11-44, mired at the bottom of the Western Conference. There’s no real rush, even with a 75-year-old coach in Gregg Popovich — a five-time NBA champion who is still in the process of figuring out what’ll be best for Wembanyama when the Spurs make their pivot from rebuilder to contender.

“You don’t really know where a player feels most comfortable or where he’s most skilled or where he can be most successful until you watch them play for a while,” Popovich said. “And that’s at both ends of the court. So. I just thought it was better, instead of making my mind up ahead of time what he needed, it’d be better to watch him.”

It’s a different approach than he used with Tim Duncan a generation ago when he was the No. 1 pick coming to the Spurs, and that’s because the players were in very different places in terms of development when they were drafted. Duncan played four years of college basketball. Wembanyama was a teen when he arrived in San Antonio from France.

The Spurs have been cautious with him, minding his minutes, limiting some back-to-backs. He may play more down the stretch of the season, if the Spurs determine that’s best.

“Now we know much more about him,” Popovich said.

Everybody does. The reviews are in, and they’re of the rave variety. The rookie of the year race seemed very much up for grabs a few weeks ago; Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren, deservedly, was being considered by some pundits as the frontrunner. That seems to have changed of late.

“Wembanyama’s fun to watch,” O’Neal said. “His team might not be playing that great, but he’s playing great.”

The rookie won’t be on the court on Sunday for the All-Star Game; that’s only a matter of time. This weekend isn’t about that. It’s about introducing the game’s next star — the latest name in a logjam of young international stars — to the league’s showcase weekend.

“Of course, being selected as an All-Star would have been a great achievement especially in my rookie year,” Wembanyama said. “Honestly, my focus is more on trying to win games and getting better as a team than this. But, of course, this is motivation.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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