ORLANDO – “Be physical.” “Communicate.” “Pressure the ball.”
Those are a few of the phrases that continuously echo through the AdventHealth practice court at Amway Center as the Orlando Magic conduct their summer league practices.
For rookie Paolo Banchero, selected first overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, it’s his first exposure to a number of the key principles that form the Magic’s identity. Team tenets, defensive priorities, coverages, offensive positioning, and terminology have all been part of Orlando’s summer league crash course over the last 24 hours and two drill sessions.
“We get them to understand the foundation that we’re building first, so that they understand the concepts, they understand the terminology, the things that we’re trying to accomplish from the ground floor,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “As we progress forward, we’ll play two-minute games and three-minute games.”
Even in drill sessions, it’s clear that Banchero has a number of tools that the team covets. The 6-foot-10 forward possesses a unique blend of craftiness, fluidity, power, and vision that make him an absolute force on the offensive end of the floor. On the defensive side, his size and skill allow him to be another versatile piece at Mosley’s disposal.
Through two days of practice sessions – mostly centered around offensive and defensive installations – Banchero has flashed those elements along with a high desire to learn.
“The one that I’m observing more is his willingness and understanding of the game,” said Mosley. “He’s obviously a fantastic teammate, pushing guys, (and) trying to learn the ins and outs of NBA system, calls. A lot is coming at him, and he’s done a great job of embracing it. He’s not afraid to ask questions. Just continuing to learn and being willing to learn.”
Magic coaches and experienced players like R.J. Hampton and Devin Cannady have continuously been in his ear as the Duke alum attempts to soak up every bit of knowledge before the squad heads out to Las Vegas. As he did last year, their head coach has worked with him one-on-one – along with other players – continuing in his hands-on approach that made such an impact on Orlando’s young core last season.
“Coach Mose is able to get on the floor a lot more and demonstrate things than Coach K was,” Banchero joked when asked to compare Mosley and former legendary Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. “They’re both great teachers.”
Through a few sessions of working with Banchero in the post, Mosley has felt firsthand the physical tools that Banchero has in his arsenal. And he’s trying to get him to use his power and strength even more as the rookie gets set to take the NBA stage for the first time in summer league action on July 7 in Las Vegas.
“He’s a very strong individual,” the Magic’s head coach marveled. “I don’t even think he understands how strong he really is. That’s the great part about his willingness to learn and ask questions. He’s going to find out how he can use his body in different ways to obviously punish defenses, but then defensively, how he can guard multiple positions.”
It’s been a whirlwind for the fourth first overall pick in franchise history. From hearing his name called on draft night to walking into the gym for the first time, he’s been taken aback by the experience.
“Walking from (the hallway) into the gym, I told myself that I felt like I was on 2K a little bit, walking into the gym on my-player mode,” said Banchero.
While it’s clear that he’s still trying to digest all the play calls, positioning, and terminology that will be asked of him, he’s clearly already got a sense of what’s important to his head coach and new organization.
“I think I’ll fit in great,” said Banchero of his new team. “We’re going to be a real good defensive team, we’re going to play hard, we’re going to do a lot of the little things right. I think I’m going to fit in well. I’m going to be able to play all over the floor, defend all over the floor, and just mesh with these guys.”
Sounds like he's picking up on the Magic's foundational principles just fine.