San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama (1) and Zach Collins (23)...

San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama (1) and Zach Collins (23) celebrate a play during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in San Antonio. Credit: AP/Darren Abate

NEW ORLEANS — Victor Wembanyama has been ruled out of San Antonio's game against New Orleans on Friday because of right hip tightness, the first time that the highly touted rookie will sit for a contest this season.

The No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft averaged 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds through the first 18 games of the season for San Antonio, which entered Friday with a 3-15 record.

Wembanyama played through the hip issue on Thursday, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in 29 minutes of San Antonio's 137-135 loss to Atlanta.

“My hip feels good," Wembanyama said after that game. "You know, as my body, in general, feels as good as we can expect this many games into this season. Yeah, holding up. Feel good.”

Wembanyama was one of three Spurs to start each of the season's first 18 games. He's played 30 minutes per game on average, second-most on the team, and had already played in both ends of two back-to-backs.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after Thursday's game that not playing Wembanyama in the second half of this back-to-back was a possibility because of the hip.

“We're trying to protect him,” Popovich said Thursday.

Giving Wembanyama the Friday game off will mean he will get nearly a week of rest, at minimum. Because of the break provided by the knockout round that starts Monday in the In-Season Tournament, the earliest Wembanyama would play again is Wednesday at Minnesota.

San Antonio started 3-2 but has gone 0-13 since entering Friday's game. The 3-15 start matched the worst 18-game record in Spurs history; the other instance of the franchise opening with that record was 1996-97. That season, Bob Hill was the coach through those 18 games before getting fired by then-general manager Popovich, who took over as coach and has remained in the job since.

The 13-game losing streak entering Friday ties the second-longest in team history. The Spurs lost 16 consecutive games last season, spanning from Jan. 20 through Feb. 25. That team finished 22-60 and the franchise then won the NBA draft lottery, giving the Spurs the right to draft Wembanyama — the French teen who stands 7 feet, 3 1/2 inches tall. He doesn't turn 20 until Jan. 4.

More NBA news

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME