LAS VEGAS – The 2022 NBA2K23 Summer League opens up on Thursday night with a featured game on the docket.
All eyes will be on No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic as they tip off the summer league slate in Las Vegas against No. 3 overall selection Jabari Smith Jr. and his Houston Rockets at the Thomas & Mack Center at 10 p.m. ET.
The Magic arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening and hosted their first practice session in the entertainment capital of the world on Wednesday morning as they continue to gear up for game action. While fans and media will certainly be looking at boxscores and statlines, for Orlando it’s all about execution and seeing if what they’re implementing in practice translates to a game setting.
“It’s definitely more about us and game planning would be, again, are we playing team defense (and) are we sticking to our principles that (head coach Jamahl Mosley) wants,” said Magic summer league head coach Jesse Mermuys. “Are we sharing the basketball (and) are we playing with pace? So, it is more about us, but all of us as organizations have a style of play, and we know Houston, of course they’re going to have new personnel out there, but we have a pretty good idea of what they’re trying to accomplish and what their fundamental core principles are. So, we’ll prepare the guys, but it’s going to be more about us.”
The contest will mark the first opportunity for fans to see Banchero in a Magic uniform. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward has shown flashes during Orlando’s summer league practices of his dynamic scoring, playingmaking and defensive versatility that made him the first overall selection.
“(I) just (want to showcase) my versatility and ability to affect winning for the team,” said Banchero of the opening matchup. “We’re going to come out and play hard as a team and I just want to be a big part of that.”
While some rookies could be overwhelmed by the pressure that comes along with being the top pick in the league’s featured game to open the summer session in Vegas, Banchero welcomes the opportunity to showcase his talent in front of a crowd.
“It’s great. I get to come out here and have all these people come watch me put on a show,” said Banchero. “I love when big crowds are out, all the cameras are out, that’s when I play my best. I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be fun.”
After all, it’s hard to top the pressure of being a star college recruit at Duke and being expected to attain great success both as a player and a program in legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s highly publicized final season.
“Paolo is probably one of the most prepared individuals for (this) situation that’s ever come along in the NBA,” said Mermuys. “His season at Duke, I don’t know if it gets much more pressure than that. He’s already prepared. You can tell the way he is as a kid. His parents have done a great job with him because he’s very low-key. He seems very even-keeled. I think he’s more than prepared for that.”
In addition to Banchero, there will be a number of storylines to keep an eye on during Thursday night’s action.
Magic second round selection, Caleb Houstan, will also be making his team debut. The No. 32 overall pick from the University of Michigan possesses all the tools to be a 3-and-D player at the NBA level.
"Real excited," said Houstan. "I think we have a real great group of guys. A lot of guys that really work hard. I think we have really good chemistry together."
R.J. Hampton, who volunteered to play in summer league, will also look to showcase his development both as an individual player and as a playmaker for others.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” said Hampton, who along with Mermuys will be mic’d up for the ESPN broadcast on Thursday night. “Just looking forward to playing with the guys and having a lot of fun.”
Devin Cannady, Admiral Schofield, and Aleem Ford all took the floor for Orlando at various times last season and will continue to work on their development this summer.
Other Magic players such as Chuma Okeke and Jalen Suggs have already arrived in Las Vegas to show their support for their teammates and take in some game action. Additional members of the squad, including Wendell Carter Jr., are expected to join them.