All eyes on Banchero, as NBA Summer League is set to open

There’s always a big show going on in Las Vegas. Welcome to the stage, Paolo Banchero. He’s about to have his premiere night.

LAS VEGAS (AP) – There’s always a big show going on in Las Vegas.

Welcome to the stage, Paolo Banchero. He’s about to have his premiere night.

The NBA Summer League begins Thursday in Las Vegas, with Banchero — the now former star forward from Duke who was No. 1 last month — set to play in the opening game when the Orlando Magic take on No. 3 Jabari Smith Jr ., entry. and the Houston Rockets in the first competition of the 11-day showcase.

“It’s great,” Banchero said Wednesday as the Magic finished practice at one of the two UNLV arenas where games will be held. “You know, I’m coming out of here, have all these people watching, watch me put on a show. I love it when there are big crowds outside, when all the cameras are out then I play my best. So, I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be fun.”

The crowds come for these games; In 2018, the Summer League set an overall attendance record of 139,972 and 2019 set an average daily record of 12,199 fans. That’s all pre-COVID, of course, and the league hopes this summer league — even with the pandemic still going strong — gets back to numbers like that.

And a glittering matchup to kick things off, two of the top three picks in game one seems fitting.

“I want to feel like I’ve been playing hard all week, no matter how long I’m there, no matter if I’m taking shots, missing shots, I want to know I’ve been out there competing, out there listening, there learning outside,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, this is all new to me.”

He’s not alone there. This is new to most players participating over the next 11 days. Some have played in Las Vegas before, perhaps at AAU games, in high school, or in college. Some have even attended the Summer League before – but there are also some who are seeing Las Vegas for the first time.

“I’m looking forward to walking around and seeing some things,” said Miami rookie Nikola Jovic. “If I have time.”

Every NBA team has a summer roster in Las Vegas, all set for five games. Each team’s first four games go into the rankings that determine which two will play for a title on July 17, although the trophy can be seen as a side part of the Summer League.

Sacramento won the Summer League last season; Only the most avid basketball fans probably know that. But moments stand out — like New Orleans No. 1 Zion Williamson snatching the ball away and dunking New Yorker Kevin Knox in the 2019 Summer League.

RELATED: Paolo Banchero is the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft

The piece, people remember. Williamson didn’t finish that game because of a knee injury, and the game itself ended eight minutes early because an earthquake struck 150 miles from Las Vegas, but the scoreboards at UNLV were shaking so badly that officials weren’t sure if the competition could safe further. New Orleans won. The result didn’t matter.

The same applies to everything that will happen at UNLV starting Thursday evening. A team will win the title and receive a trophy as well as t-shirts and hats on July 17, but it’s the moments – like the debut of a No. 1 selection – that usually stand out.

“I think Paolo is probably one of the most prepared people for this situation that has ever come across in the NBA,” said Orlando’s assistant Jesse Mermuys, who will coach the summer league team. “His season at Duke, I don’t know if there’s a lot more pressure. And so he is already prepared. You can tell. His parents did a great job with him.”

Banchero has spent the past few weeks living out of a suitcase, meeting new summer teammates — most of whom won’t be on the Magic roster when the real NBA season kicks off in mid-October — and starting relationships with them build up Also Orlando veterans.

Whatever happens on Thursday night, it’s just a start.

“I know who I am,” Banchero said. “I know what I’m bringing. Whether I have a great game or a bad game, I will never go too high and never go too low. I hold myself to high standards. Well, really, in my head, it’s just me against me. I don’t worry about what other people do. I don’t worry about what other people think. It’s just how I see myself and whether I’m happy with how I played or not. “ All eyes on Banchero, as NBA Summer League is set to open

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