Paolo’s diary: The magical rookie prepares for his NBA debut

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — (EDITOR’S NOTE: Orlando Magic rookie Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, will write a periodic diary for The Associated Press to chronicle his first season in the league. Banchero plays his first regular-season game Wednesday when Orlando visits Detroit.)

Everything counts now. The season is starting and it’s a real thing. Every win, every loss counts, so this is another level of seriousness you have to bring. You have to focus and at the same time accept it and have fun.

It’s not like college, and in a good way. You have the whole day to focus on your work and craft, your body and yourself. We’re here at the AdventHealth training center probably three, four hours a day. Other guys have wives and kids or other commitments, but I have nothing else to do but this.

I spend that time getting a massage or stretching, making sure I get the right amount of sleep I need to get, trying to get all the little things right. When I walk into a facility or walk into a game day, I want to know that I’m ready and in the best possible mental and physical condition that I can be. That’s the best thing about being a pro. You have all the time in the world just to be your best self. That’s what I was trying to do.

We have goals. We want to compete in our conference, whether it’s play-in or play-off, we’re just trying to get there and play meaningful games later in the season. We want to grow as a team, to be better than we were in the game before and we hope that every step we take this year will be in the right direction. For me, I want to play freely, to play instinctively and if I do that, everything else will take care of itself. I think I’ve always been like that.

One of my goals is to be Rookie of the Year. That’s not the goal. The goal is to enter the play-in, that is, the playoffs. But obviously, I expect myself to play well. I feel like I’m the best newbie. Winning that award would mean a lot, but for me it’s not the end of everything. That’s something I would definitely love to win.

I like our team. I could say about every player, but I feel that Franz Wagner just brings a certain level of seriousness to the team. He’s focused, smart, a student of the game, a very, very smart player. He and his brother Moritz. I realized that pretty early on, because I’m the same way in terms of just being focused and taking it seriously and just trying to do whatever it takes to win. I think we align a lot in terms of mentality and how we see the game or how much we want to win. Wendell Carter Jr., too. Everyone really, but I’d say Franz and Wendell are the two guys that I immediately got that vibe from. We are all strikers who can handle, pass and shoot. I think we have an understanding of what we all want to do and where we can go with this team.

Orlando, the city, has been great so far. I wouldn’t say I go out often, not even to eat. But just driving around the city, being in the city, it’s nice to be in the city and I feel like the people here are very welcoming. The city is not too busy, but it is not boring either. It is not quiet and not many people. It has a nice vibe.

As for what I’m doing, I’m really in my place, just chilling. I like to leave the balcony door open because there is always a nice breeze. I like little things like that. I don’t really have anyone here with me right now, not even to do things.

We are all young. Everyone on this team has something to prove. Whether it’s their own agendas or team agendas, with the recent struggles around us, we just want to get the Orlando Magic back to where they should be, which is the playoffs and championship contention. I mean, it’s not going to happen overnight. It won’t happen in a week. It’s a long process. It’s a marathon. I think we all accept that.

And I think we will surprise people this year.


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