(EDITOR’S NOTE — Orlando Magic rookie and No. 1 overall draft pick Paolo Banchero is doing a periodic diary with The Associated Press this season to chronicle his first year in the NBA. This is his second installment, the first since the regular season started. The Magic are an NBA-worst 5-20 through the first 25 games of his rookie campaign. He’s averaging 21.7 points and 6.8 rebounds.)
The first few weeks of my first NBA season, I would say it’s been a lot of learning, a lot of learning on the floor, off the floor, habits, learning what works, what routine works for me, stuff like that. And then just learning how this league is, how you got to bring it every night. You got to learn how to win. It’s not just going to be handed to you.
I think I’ve learned that. We’ve all learned that and we’re doing it the hard way, including me, just being a rookie coming from Duke, coming from always winning my whole life. Now it’s a little different. I’ve got to learn how to prepare the same way, still have the same love and joy for the game — and focus on how we can get wins and get competitive.
There is a lot to like here. All the guys are close. We all communicate when we’re not in the arena or the AdventHealth Training Center. It’s honestly a great vibe every day around here. It’s not like guys don’t speak to each other. It’s not like there’s any turmoil. Everything off the court is smooth and everyone likes what we’re doing. It’s about just kind of trying to figure out how we can bring that camaraderie to the court, to the games and help each other win. And we’ve dealt with a lot of other stuff, injuries and whatnot. We just want to see each other get healthy. Then we can try and build.
It’s about patience. That’s the main thing. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Banchero missed seven games with a sprained ankle.) I had never been injured before. High school, my sophomore year, I had a concussion that kept me out two weeks. But as far as injuries go, I never had any. I hadn’t missed any game in college. Outside that concussion, I didn’t miss any games in high school. I just had to learn to listen to my body and be patient. I’m still not as explosive as I was before getting hurt. I feel like I’ve gotten my wind back pretty much, but just as far as explosion and movement-wise, I’m still trying to just speed it up and get back into the flow. It’s a daily process.
There have been good ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moments. There have been some that weren’t as good. I had the dunk in my first game. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Banchero dunked over Detroit’s Cory Joseph in his debut game in October.) I mean, it was a nice dunk. I think I had one in high school that I would deem better than that one. I’ve never had a dunk where someone tried to take a charge ever in my life. All the dunks I’ve had on people have been when they try and jump to block me. And even a couple of my close friends were like, ‘Wow, that was crazy to see.’
I’ve had some moments where you realize, this is what the NBA is like. Whether it’s going against Kevin Durant and he goes for 45 and only misses five shots, or my having 30 in two games, you learn from all of it. And you realize, ‘Hey, I’m here. I can do this.’
Before the season, I was definitely one of the guys who would say, ‘This is going to happen this season, we can do this and we can do that.’ And then you look up and we’re 5-20. For me, it’s just a reality check. You can’t just come into this league and just get wins and have success. You got to work for it. It’s going to take multiple years.
We know it’s not going to happen in a week. It’s not going to happen in two weeks. It’s not going to happen with one player or one adjustment. This could take one year, two years, three years. It’s not just an overnight success. We have a working mindset and just knowing that we’re at the bottom right now, there’s nowhere to go but up. So, we’ll take the small victories, whether that’s one win, whether that’s a good quarter or a good half, and then just move on to the next thing and try and just pile those up and let it continue to grow.
This is a process. And whether it results in immediate wins or not, I just want to see us play better basketball, see myself continue to learn and stay committed. We can’t let whatever’s happening discourage us. We’ve just got to keep with it, stick with it, because you never know what can happen. Let’s come in every day with a fresh mind, fresh soul and just be ready to get better.
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