When the Houston Rockets' preseason schedule was announced, one facet made the slate a bit more intriguing: the Rockets two-game stint against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Rockets were going to get an extended early look at Victor Wembanyama, who has been regarded as the best prospect since LeBron James in 2003.
The Rockets' ability to defend him and contain him would be on display, as it would seemingly be the Rockets' key to preventing the Spurs from rising in the divisional standings throughout the regular season.
The Spurs decided against playing the French center in their first matchup against the Rockets, but gave him some pretty good burn in Wednesday's game, to the tune of 20 minutes. The Rockets held the 19-year-old to 15 points on 3-of-10 shooting, forcing two turnovers in addition.
After the game, Rockets coach Ime Udoka revealed the Rockets' key to success against Wembanyama, which should give the rest of the league a huge leg-up.
"We kinda got up under him. We wanted to take away his space on the post-ups. He wants to settle for that face-up jump shot or fade away. So we used our strength to push him out.
He's gonna make some plays here and there. But I feel comfortable with all of our smaller wings kinda climbing up under him and pushing him off the spot.
Obviously, it's going to be a tough contest but you can be physical with him. I think everybody got a little bit of a piece of him."
Udoka's Victor Wembanyama quote gives the rest of the league a huge boost
Udoka was asked about the Rockets' approach of switching wings on Wemby early in the game followed by having Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith Jr. serve as primary defenders on Wembanyama later in the game.
"We wanted to get a look at different guys on him. Some guys that'll actually have a chance to guard him.
When they went to a smaller lineup late, I think they had four guards and a bunch of shooters around him at the five, we let [Sengun] guard him for a minute.
For the most part, it was based on their lineup on the floor at the time."
The Rockets got a little over-aggressive at times, allowing Wemby eight trips to the charity stripe due to fouls, but by-and-large Udoka's gameplan was effective.
Which is a bit of a surprise since the Rockets were playing without Dillon Brooks and Tari Eason- two of the best defensive wings on the roster. If you recall, yours truly suggested a physical style of defense on Wemby with Brooks serving as the primary defender before the Rockets-Spurs mini-series got underway.
Wednesday's results without one of the league's best defenders on the floor in Brooks should strike fear in the hearts of Spurs fans. More importantly, it gave the rest of the league a huge boost.