Paolo’s diary: Magic rookie getting set 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 do 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 the real thing. Every win, every loss counts, so this is another level of seriousness that you’ve got to bring. You’ve got to focus while also embracing it and having fun.

It’s not like college, and in a good way. You have all day to focus on your job and your craft, your body and yourself. We’re here in the AdventHealth Training Center probably for three, four hours out of the day. Other guys have a wife and kids or other obligations, but myself, I don’t have anything else to do but this.

I’m spending that time getting a massage or stretching, making sure I get the right amount of sleep that I’m supposed to get, trying to do all the little things right. When I walk into the facility or walk into game day, I want to know I’m prepared and in the best possible state mentally and physically that I can be. That’s the best thing about being a professional. You’ve got all the time in the world to just be your best self. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.

We have goals. We want to compete in our conference, whether it’s for a play-in or playoff spot, just trying to get there and play meaningful games later on in the season. We want to grow as a team, be better than we were the game before and, hopefully, every step we take will be in the right direction this year. For myself, I want to play free, play instinctive and if I do that, everything else is going to take care of itself. I think that’s how it’s always been for me.

One of my goals is to be rookie of the year. That’s not THE goal. The goal is to get to the play-in, or playoffs. But obviously, I expect myself to play well. I feel like I’m the best rookie. Winning that award would mean a lot, but it’s not the end-all, be-all for me. It’s something I would like to win, for sure.

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

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

As far as like what I do, I’m really in my place, just chilling. I like to leave the balcony door open because it’s always got a nice breeze. Little stuff like that is what I like. I really don’t have anyone out here with me right now, even to do stuff with.

We’re all young. Everyone on this team kind of has something to prove. Whether it’s their own agendas or the team agenda, with the recent struggles around here, we want to just put the Orlando Magic back to where they should be, which is the playoffs and in contention for championships. I mean, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in a week. It’s a long process. It’s a marathon. I think we all embrace that.

And I think we’ll surprise people this year.

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