LAS VEGAS–PAOLO BANCHERO was the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft for just that kind of moment. And most of his new Orlando Magic teammates stand on the sidelines to watch.
It’s July 9, three days into the Las Vegas Summer League, and the Magic, up 18 points by just 4:25 in the fourth quarter, are screwing it up.
With 6.1 seconds left, the Kings’ Neemias Queta shoots a 3-pointer off the top of the button to shrink the Magic’s lead to 3. The crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center is on their feet, excited for what could be the final game in an unusually exciting game that has seen No. 1 pick battle No. 4 pick Keegan Murray.
As Banchero prepares for the approach, cheers from the sidelines are Jalen Suggs, No. 5 of 2021, Cole Anthony, No. 15 of 2020, Jonathan Isaac, No. 6 of 2017, former No. 1 (of the Philadelphia 76ers), Markelle Fultz, Chuma Okeke, Gary Harris and Bol Bol – all there to encourage Orlando’s treasured new rookie and watch the Banchero Show.
The group is part of a cadre of current Magic players who came to Vegas to see the rookie’s inaugural show. Wendell Carter Jr., Moe and Franz Wagner, Mo Bamba and RJ Hampton, who plays alongside Banchero on Orlando’s Summer League team, all also made appearances in the desert. While Banchero’s suitability has yet to be determined, his impact on the group is already being felt and his arrival only strengthens the bonds of a team that has already forged solid relationships off the court.
“I was texting all the guys the other day about how special it was,” says Magic second-year coach Jamahl Mosley.
Back on the ground, Banchero jabs left, trying to give Murray even a modicum of space with his 6-foot-11 wingspan, and passes to Hampton near the Kings’ left corner. But the Kings anticipate it and Ade Murkey deflects the pass. A free-for-all ensues and the ball lands in Murray’s hands.
As he returns to the 3-point line, Banchero rushes towards him. As the final seconds tick by, Murray pumpfakes and the 6ft 10 forward and Hampton both bite, flying past the former Iowa wing before watching Murray pull up the potential game equalizer 3. At this point, it’s Murray’s game to lose and Banchero knows it.
The ball rushes in and Banchero’s hands fall with deflation. As he walks down the floor, he passes all of his new teammates. For Anthony, who was bouncing in his seat with excitement throughout the game, being present in those early moments is crucial. The third-year guard knows how much it meant to him with some of his older teammates watching him in the summer league – and now he’s paying it forward.
“They’re part of the family now,” he says.
Banchero’s arrival on the NBA scene has given the Magic, who have only made the playoffs twice since the end of the 2011-12 season, a boost of energy that the organization desperately needed.
So much so that many of them made it clear they were already ahead of their coach when Mosley and his coaching staff texted the veteran players ahead of Summer League to host a team dinner in Vegas.
“These guys came in and said, ‘Well, that’s great, but we’re going to be there for the first time on the 7th [summer league] game,” says Mosley. “And I know a lot of teams have certain types, but for them to sit together, to be with each other, to laugh and joke, to talk about what they want to do, to be together – that’s something special for each other me.”
FOR EVERY NO. 1 Pick, intense scrutiny begins as soon as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver names his name on draft night. And often before that.
It’s a spotlight Banchero admits he’s still getting used to.
“A year and a half ago, I was a high schooler,” Banchero said. “I wasn’t used to that. It’s different now.”
It’s an adjustment Mosley believes Banchero is ready for, in part because of the young star’s only season at Duke — which also served as Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season on campus.
While the basketball world is interested in seeing how Banchero will fit as the centerpiece of this team, Mosley wants to take as much pressure off the 19-year-old who is already a face of the long-struggling franchise.
“I really think we’re going to do that on committee, honestly,” Mosley says. “Look at the Warriors. Look at Milwaukee; you’re looking at memphis There’s something about the committee they do it on. One person will speak sometimes, but there are other people holding everyone accountable. There is a man who speaks up and does things differently, works differently.
“That’s how this team evolves; each guy will have a different type of voice on a different night.”
It’s a model Mosley has seen in the 2022 NBA champion’s Warriors — and a foundation he hopes to build with his young roster in Orlando, where no player carries too much burden.
One of the drills the Magic staff had to put the team through in Vegas involved giving each player a chance to lead the offense and put their teammates in what they felt was the right position during various sets and actions.
The goal, says Mosley, was to allow each player “to use their voice in leadership on the pitch.”
“Look at how Draymond [Green] is so vocal, but everyone knows how he keeps this team together and keeps this team together,” says Mosley. “Steph [Curry] doesn’t have to say much, but when he does, it speaks volumes. We want to build our guys in that way where there’s that chemistry and then when the guys stand up and they get their voice and get that sense of leadership, they start to stand up. “
Orlando will be leaning on his rookie out of Duke to play an integral role.
Anthony knows what Banchero represents for an organization – and a city – that hasn’t been relevant to the league nationally since Dwight Howard left the city in 2012.
“I went to the gym [Banchero] It’s a bit just to see him out here just doing what he’s doing,” says Anthony, clad in a t-shirt celebrating Shaquille O’Neal’s Magic tenure. “He will help us a lot. And now I feel like we can really start building something.”
BACK IN Thomas & Mack center, Anthony, Harris and Suggs stand on the sidelines holding their phones ready to record. After a back-and-forth in overtime, the Magic and Kings are about to enter the most exciting phase of Summer League: Sudden-Death Double OT.
This is the moment the whole arena has come to.
On the third possession of overtime, Banchero dribbled into the center of the court where he was hit by Murray.
The entire lower shell rises expectantly, wired into every movement.
“It’s just extra intensity, extra pressure when the whole crowd is clapping and standing up when you have the ball,” Banchero said after the game. “It’s just the stuff you dream about in the arena where the eyes of the whole crowd are on you. You only want this moment. That’s what I live for.”
Paolo Banchero makes the sweet pass to Emanuel Terry for the Sudden Death OT winner.
The Kings knock the ball away from Banchero, but he quickly recovers before being swarmed by Murray’s long frame. Banchero keeps the ball overhead and scans the ground for an open teammate.
The entire Kings defense is hooked on him as they have all the play that allows striker Emanuel Terry to slip freely under the basket. Surrounded by another double team, Banchero sees the opening and skips a pass to Terry that propels him to the win.
Banchero clenches his fist and runs towards Terry as the Magic storm the court to celebrate. Anthony hops to the ground with his veteran teammates, surrounds Banchero and the young Magic players, and congratulates them like proud parents.
“They’re so connected,” says Mosley. “That’s the great thing about it. It’s just organic with all these guys. You are just happy; they are always around each other. Wendell will be with Cole and Wendell will be with Jalen and Jalen will be with Paolo. They all build these great relationships over time and that’s because they’re all just good kids who enjoy being together.”
Over two games, Banchero averaged 40 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, and 10 turnovers — a tempting performance riddled with first-year errors. In doing so, he also helped unite a group that believes in a winning record — and a return to the NBA’s main stage — in their future.
“The kid is so talented,” says Anthony. “He loves the game. He’s working hard and I think… he’s going to be really good.”
ESPN’s Andrew Lopez contributed to this story.
https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34281474/how-orlando-magic-building-paolo-banchero-using-formula-built-dynasty How the Orlando Magic are building around Paolo Banchero