SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — (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 fourth installment. The first chronicled him getting ready for the season, the second discussed the learning curve for the Magic, and the third revolved around Orlando seeing improvement on the floor. )
My first All-Star weekend was awesome.
Coming in, I didn’t know really what to expect. I knew it was going to be a lot going on, but I didn’t really know how I was going to handle it or what it was really going to be like. I’ve enjoyed myself, on and off the court, making a lot of appearances and whatnot, interacting with fans. And it’s just a blessing to be a part of this. I grew up watching every single All-Star game, every single skills competition, dunk contest. I always looked forward to that.
And now I was part of it.
Our team that was named for and coached by Pau Gasol won the Rising Stars games on Friday night. And our Rooks team was in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night. Didn’t win that one, but had a blast being back out there and being part of that atmosphere.
But when it was over, I was officially on my All-Star break. A couple of days off before we get back to work at the AdventHealth Training Center with practice starting again Tuesday afternoon. Let me tell you, a couple days off means a lot. That goes a long way.
I’m a young guy, but I’ve definitely got some aches and pains. I’m going to try and take advantage of these next couple days as much as I can. Get off my feet, relax my mind as well. I think also taking time to get your mind off basketball is big, just so when you come back, you feel much more refreshed and focused. Some guys, some people, even myself, we can get caught up in just wanting to be so much better all the time. Just constantly thinking about the work. You’re thinking about basketball all the time and you don’t let yourself ever breathe. But you have to. And that’s why I definitely need to take some time off. Just relax. I’m looking forward to that.
I expected a lot of stars to be out here in Salt Lake City. I think what surprised me the most was all the non-basketball stars that are here. Musicians, other sports stars. Guy Fieri was here, the Food Network guy. I mean, everybody’s here. So just seeing all these people come out just to watch the NBA All-Star Weekend puts in perspective just how much the NBA means to everybody, and it’s a blessing to be a part of this.
I even met Oprah Winfrey’s best friend. Gayle King of “CBS Mornings.” I met her in the hotel lobby. Maybe everybody doesn’t think that’s a huge deal, but that’s a huge deal. My grandma loves her, so I’ve seen her a lot on television. Meeting her, that was one where I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ I’m usually not up at 7 in the morning to watch her show. But my grandmother is. And I know this was a big deal for her.
Everybody knows how we started our season in Orlando. We were 5-20 and we’ve gone 19-15 since then. We’ve given ourselves a chance. It’s really exciting. Games are meaningful now. We got to win more than we lose, for sure, the rest of the way. And I think we’re ready to accept that challenge and go for it. I think guys are taking the time off right now, getting charged up, and I think we’re going to come back motivated. I’m excited. I’m excited. I think we’re going to make a strong push. Not going to guarantee anything, but I think we’re going to be able to make a strong push.
We’ve got goals. I’ve got more goals now as well. I was part of All-Star Friday this year, part of All-Star Saturday. Next year, I want to be part of All-Star Sunday and be in the All-Star Game. We’re trying to get there. We’ll try to be a starter, but obviously that’s for down the road. Right now, I’ve just got to keep working. Stay focused, and things will take care of themselves, but All-Star Game next year, that’s definitely a goal for sure.
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