No. 1 pick Banchero says he is ready for high expectations with Magic

0 Comments

ORLANDO, Fla. — The secret about how Orlando was going to take Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft was incredibly well-kept.

Among those who didn’t know: Banchero himself.

Banchero said even he was kept out of the Magic decision loop until about 30 seconds before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the draft stage to announce his name for the basketball world to hear. Mike Miller, Banchero’s agent, leaned over and broke the news by simply saying “Congratulations.”

“It all happened pretty fast,” Banchero said.

With that, he was off and running. Banchero arrived in Orlando on Friday, one day after his name got permanently etched on the list of No. 1 draft picks. The 6-foot-10 forward out of Duke will officially start workouts next week for Orlando’s July 7 opener at NBA Summer League.

“There’s going to be high expectations for myself that I’m going to hold myself to and that everyone is going to hold myself to,” Banchero said. “But I feel like it’s nothing I’m not used to. It was the same thing for me heading into college, throughout high school, a lot of expectations. It’s been like that my whole life.”

The Magic looked at every option with the No. 1 pick. Teams called about obtaining it in a trade. Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. came in for a workout that some Orlando players attended and raved about. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren spent a few days with the Magic last week. The team insisted other players were given serious consideration as well.

There were plenty of things to consider, fit in the short-term and fit in the long-term among them.

“There’s things that you’re grabbing from each one that you’re like, `Oh, man, wow, that can be great for us,”‘ Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “But then it ultimately comes down to, `How does that fit for us? How do we jell with them in the locker room? How are they treating people when they’re walking in?’ Because all those pieces play a factor. And I think we’ve done an incredible job with those details.”

The Magic said they were convinced when the college season ended that Banchero was the best player at that level this past season. But the actual timetable on when they made the decision to take him No. 1 remains a secret.

Miller, who won the NBA rookie of the year award in Orlando and now will try to help Banchero do the same as an agent, said he started getting hints about a half-hour before the pick was made.

“It was a great job of them doing the due diligence and keeping it quiet,” Miller said. “But they trusted in what they saw in him and what we were talking about as far as his basketball abilities – not only where he’s at now, but where he’s going to be. And there’s not, I’ll be honest, there’s not many Paolo Bancheros walking through a lot of doors. He’s just a special, special kid and a special basketball player.”

What happens over the next few days will be a whirlwind. Summer League practice awaits, and Banchero and second-round pick Caleb Houstan of Michigan both intend to play. There will be tons of attention on that, right from the get-go: the made-for-TV first game in Las Vegas pits Orlando against Houston, the team that used the No. 3 pick on Smith – after he was widely expected by many to end up in Orlando.

Mosley – who will run some practices going into Summer League, but will leave the game responsibilities in Las Vegas to Magic assistant Jesse Mermuys – said he doesn’t intend to coach Banchero any differently than any other player. But the fact is, Banchero will be viewed differently than any other rookie this season. Such is life for the No. 1 pick in any draft.

“Right now, the level of expectation of what people outside view as what the No. 1 pick should do and should be may be different,” Mosley said. “But we also understand, when you walk into this building, you’re an Orlando Magic and there’s a standard and a set of things that we’re going to need to do night in and night out to make everyone successful.”

Ultimately, that was one of the biggest determining factors for the Magic. Smith is obviously talented. Holmgren is obviously talented. The potential for both players is infinite. But something that set Banchero apart, in their eyes, was the way Orlando believes he makes the game easier for teammates.

“There are just so many things that go into this,” Magic President Jeff Weltman said. “It’s talent, it’s fit, it’s character, it’s the projection where the league is going. There’s so many things that factor into a conversation like this that you can literally go on for months more arguing it. And that’s kind of like what makes it fun, right? I mean, it’s been a fun process.”

And now, the real work starts.

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball “nowhere near playing,” could miss entire season

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
0 Comments

“I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up. I would love to play. I would never count that out.”

Lonzo Ball tried to put an optimistic face on his recovery from a second knee surgery, but he was realistic and put no timetable on a return.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was more realistic, speaking Saturday before the Bulls took on the Magic. Via Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s made some progress, but I’d be the first one to tell you he’s nowhere near playing,” Donovan said. “He’s just not. Because he’s not running on a consistent basis. When he can get to that place where he can do that consistently and be able to come back the next day and do it again, do it again and do it again — I think you’ll feel a little bit more optimistic.”

Could Ball be out for the entire season? Donovan again, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My guess would be – there’s not been a specifically set date – my guess would be I think we get through the All-Star Break, I think there would probably be everybody sitting down to talk about length and time of the season, how realistic is it for him to get back, if he could get back what would the minutes look like, is it not worth having him back just because it’s too much?’’ Donovan said. “I think everything, at least in my conversations with medical about him, have always been geared towards helping him get back to playing. Certainly once you get out of the All-Star Break, with the amount of time that’s left, basically you’re at the end of February. You have all of March and not even two weeks in April, so you start to get to that point where I think there will be some conversations of, ‘OK, if he’s still not close to playing, what’s the plan moving forward?’”

Ball has undergone multiple knee surgeries. The first was in January 2022 and the expectation at the time was he would return for the playoffs, but his knee didn’t respond well during rehab. That led to a second knee surgery, and recovery from that is going slowly as well. It leaves the Bulls in a tough spot, they miss his defense and his being a floor general on offense as they have struggled to a 23-26 record this season that sees them sitting as the No. 11 seed in the East.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

0 Comments

We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

0 Comments

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder (if he does sit out Monday against the Nets, as the team announced).

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken at home against the Thunder.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Crypto.com Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

0 Comments

It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.