NBA news, scores 2023: Victor Wembanyama lights up pre-season, stats, Ben Simmons returns, highlights, video

French prodigy Victor Wembanyama scored 20 points in an impressive pre-season debut for the San Antonio Spurs against Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday (US time).

Wembanyama, the 19-year-old No.1 draft pick from Paris who is being tipped as a generational NBA talent, produced some dazzling moments of skill in a narrow 122-121 defeat on the road.

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Wembanyama finished with 20 points from 8-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, two steals and a block.

Despite spending only 19min 22sec on court, the 7ft 3in French teenager was able to give plenty of glimpses of the combination of size and skill that has caused so much excitement since his arrival in the NBA.

A sublime spin move and layup that bamboozled the Oklahoma City defense midway through the second period caught the eye, while at the other end a remarkable block on Jalen Williams in the first quarter showcased his defensive skills.

“I thought he was fine,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Wembanyama’s display.

“No big game plan for him or anything like that. He just went out and played basketball which he likes to do and he’s good at.

“We’re still figuring out where we can take most advantage of his abilities. I’m not sure he’s even sure. But he’s a smart guy so he’ll figure it out even if I don’t.

“We corrected him on some things tonight, mostly on the defensive end. But that’s expected for all new players, coming into the league.”

Wembanyama meanwhile was satisfied with his opening performance.

“In terms of the game it’s what I expected,” Wembanyama said. “I’m very hopeful, because we had some great sequences in the first half.

“I’m a rookie, so what I’ve got to do is play hard, give 100 percent… I was just trying to put energy at all times. But I can do better.”

Wembanyama’s performance was matched by the Thunder’s Chet Holmgren. Holmgren was the second overall pick in the 2022 Draft but missed the entirety of his debut season with a foot injury.

Holmgren finished with 21 points and nine rebounds.

“They’re going to be a lot of fun for everybody to watch over their careers,” Popovich said of Wembanyama and Holmgren.

San Antonio take on Miami on Friday in their next pre-season game, with their opening match of the regular season coming at home on October 25 against Dallas.

BEN SIMMONS FIRES UP IN NBA RETURN

Scores don’t mean much in the preseason, but sights do.

And the image of Ben Simmons not just playing but playing well is an auspicious one.

Brooklyn suffered a 129-126 loss to the Lakers at T-Mobile Arena on Monday night (US time).

But more important than the scoreboard watching was whether the oft-injured Simmons passed the eye test in his first live action since February.

He did so with flying colours.

Returning from a nerve impingement that wrecked last season, Simmons had 10 points, three assists and a steal in 14:07 encouraging first-half minutes.

“[It felt] amazing. That’s really it, just amazing. Happy to be out there, and compete, and feel good out there and able to contribute like I know how I can. So I felt great,” Simmons said. “It’s the best in two years for sure. Definitely.”

Simmons — who hadn’t played since Feb. 15 due to back woes — looked active, athletic and aggressive before sitting the second half, along with all the starters other than Cam Thomas.

“He attacked the rim, I think he played with pace, looked pretty natural out there getting up and down the floor, communicating with guys into the flow of the game. Really good to see,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “So, some really good minutes.’

Simmons took LeBron James off the dribble for a driving layup on his second touch of the night, got up higher on a dunk than he did at any point since joining the Nets, and was confident enough to try things (even when they didn’t come off, like his behind-the-back pass that sailed out of bounds).

“Very encouraging,” Vaughn said. “In the past, of some of the things he’s been able to do, and some of that, the behind-the-back, that’s part of his game. I understand that. And the pace that he plays with, unscripted and having a flair in the flow to his game, those things we want him to get back to doing was instinctive basketball. I think you saw some of that, and definitely a positive direction for him.”

If Simmons had been healthy last season, sources told The Post that Kevin Durant likely would’ve stayed on in Brooklyn even without Kyrie Irving.

Now the Nets can only hope to get Simmons back to his old self to form a building block alongside Mikal Bridges, who arrived in the Durant trade.

After missing all of 2021-22 with mental health woes and a bad back, Simmons had a microdiscectomy for a herniated L-4 disk on May 5, 2022.

He rushed back too early and averaged career lows of just 6.9 points, 6.3 boards and 6.1 assists in 42 ineffective appearances before being shut down.

Now back after a strong camp, Simmons has dislodged Spencer Dinwiddie from the point guard spot.

Clearly playing Simmons alongside fellow non-shooter Nic Claxton caused some spacing issues that were exacerbated by Cam Johnson’s bad hamstring. That’s a work in progress.

Thomas had 26 points in a rare start, but Bridges struggled without that spacing.

The slasher mustered just eight points in 15:19, shooting 2-for-7 and finishing a team-worst minus-11.

And the Nets also struggled adjusting to playing drop coverage.

A Bridges turnover led to a Rui Hachimura dunk and a 66-47 deficit with 3:10 left in the second half.

Thomas pulled them even at 88-all, and they took a 126-125 lead on a finger roll by ex-Laker Lonnie Walker IV.

But rookie Jalen Wilson got blocked and it led to Maxwell Lewis go-ahead dunk. After Trendon Watford was whistled for an offensive foul, Colin Castleton iced it on a layup with 49.9 seconds to play.

Still, Simmons’ play was a positive.

“I was excited. So excited. Just blessed to be able to come out here and play at a high level,” Simmons said. “It’s exciting. I get to play in the NBA. It’s a great job.”

“I’ve known how it felt for a while now and I’ve worked really hard to put myself in this position. So I know I’m ready. I know I’m more than ready to be here and able to compete and help this team win.”

This article was originally published by the NY Post and was republished with permission.

Originally published as Victor Wembanyama has put the league on notice after only one game

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