Earlier than his lone season at Duke, Paolo Banchero tattooed a message to himself on his proper forearm:
Naturally, the No. 1 decide in final month’s NBA draft mentioned that whereas he was excited for his first recreation in an NBA uniform Thursday evening, in a showdown with No. 3 choice Jabari Smith Jr. within the opening recreation of the NBA’s annual summer time league, it wasn’t something he was too involved about.
“I acquired it tattooed on me,” Banchero mentioned after ending with 17 factors, 4 rebounds and 6 assists in 25 minutes to assist the Orlando Magic beat the Houston Rockets 91-77. “No stress, actually.
“So I’ve all the time handled stress nicely, been capable of deal with it. And I imply, on the finish of the day, it’s simply basketball. There’s gonna be all of the stress, all of the noise on this planet, however on the finish of the day you bought to go on the market and hoop towards 5 different guys, so it’s like, ‘What actually is it if it’s simply basketball?’”
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Thursday’s NBA 2K23 Summer time League recreation may need been only a meaningless exhibition within the summertime, but it surely didn’t take lengthy for Banchero to point out off a number of the abilities that compelled Orlando to pick him over Smith with the highest decide.
Banchero, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound ahead many anticipated to be essentially the most ready-to-play NBA prospect, confirmed off a well-rounded mixture of scoring, passing and rebounding that can make him one of many favorites to win the league’s rookie of the 12 months award.
He hit a few 3-pointers — one on a catch-and-shoot alternative on the wing and the opposite on a tough step-back from the highest of the important thing over Smith’s lengthy arms. He additionally spent a lot of the sport enjoying the position he seemingly could have for Orlando this season, primarily serving because the workforce’s de facto level guard. Because of this, he fired off a number of good passes, together with two fast lasers inside for layup alternatives.
Requested what he hoped to show in Thursday’s recreation, Banchero mentioned, “That I could be a go-to man and impression successful on the similar time, not a man who’s gonna harm the workforce.”
“You recognize, I really feel like I’ve acquired the ball in my palms rather a lot, and supply scoring, helping, rebounding for the workforce,” he mentioned. “So simply doing that after which additionally being higher on protection. I feel I did all proper, however I could be a lot higher.”
Smith, then again, appeared like somebody who turned 19 lower than two months in the past. He had a few good moments offensively, together with two nifty drives on the left facet of the lane for layups, one in every half, and one good catch-and-shoot 3-pointer on the wing.
In any other case, he was largely quiet. He completed with 10 factors, 7 rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes, as he grew to become the newest non-guard to fall sufferer to the tempo of summer time league play, when ball-dominant guards have a tendency to regulate play.
“Yeah, I had nerves coming into it,” Smith mentioned. “It was simply robust, you recognize what I’m saying? Figuring it out. Only a completely different fashion of play, you recognize, first NBA recreation. So it was enjoyable, however I’m prepared for the following one.”
There’s lots to love about Smith’s recreation, too, together with his excessive, fast launch on his soar shot, which needs to be practically not possible to contest, given his lengthy arms and 6-10 body. He additionally has fast toes defensively.
As the sport went on, Smith appeared to get extra snug and change into extra concerned in consequence, one thing he admitted after the sport.
Smith added, nevertheless, that it’s on him to be extra concerned from the soar shifting ahead.
“I really feel like I may have been extra concerned, simply off of me,” he mentioned. “Off of me crashing the offensive glass, off of me discovering extra methods to get entangled on the offensive finish. However that’s gonna include me studying the offense, studying the system. However no, aside from that, I really feel like I used to be fairly concerned. I’ve simply acquired to make some open pictures and crash the glass extra.”
Finally, Thursday evening’s recreation was simply the summer time league debut for each gamers. Each of them, nevertheless, had been completely happy to have their maiden NBA video games below their belts.
“Yeah, you gotta concentrate on it, however you simply can’t fear about it an excessive amount of,” Smith mentioned of the eye he and Banchero obtained for his or her head-to-head matchup. “You simply gotta go on the market and have enjoyable and let the remaining deal with itself.”
Smith added with a smile: “It’s enjoyable. I’d somewhat or not it’s that approach than the opposite approach.”
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