Paolo Banchero Hit A Sick And-1 To Beat The Pistons & Gave A Raw, Tearful Interview Afterwards

Paulo Banchero
Bally Sports

For the literal entirety of my career as a sportswriter, the Orlando Magic franchise has been the NBA destination where young talent goes to die. They’ve had countless cracks at bat in the NBA Draft lottery over the past 10 or so years, with a stunning bust rate, many seasons of misery, and little willingness to make meaningful improvements to the roster. An unserious organization whose brass from the top down seemed not to take winning seriously in the post-Dwight Howard/Stan Van Gundy era.

Don’t look now, but the Magic are on track for their best season in a long time. They’ve finally hit on some high draft picks, made some other savvy personnel moves, and have a bona fide face of the franchise in 2022 No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero. The former Duke standout is already an All-Star at 21 years old. Although he didn’t have his best stuff against the lowly Detroit Pistons on Saturday night, he took over when it mattered most for the winning bucket:

Following Orlando’s 112-109 win, Banchero couldn’t contain his emotions, with multiple Dan Hurley-style F-bombs on live TV and a flood of tears. He revealed that he was fighting through sickness, too, and what he deemed as a “terrible” performance by his standards.

Way to hang tough, Paolo. Would’ve been so easy for the Magic sit him for the night in this era of load management, hoping they could rest him and beat up on the DFL Pistons.

Quick interjection that can never be underscored enough: The NBA regular season is way too long. We don’t need to see 82 games, Adam Silver. Nor should players be required to participate in so much relatively meaningless basketball.

All that said, it’s so refreshing to see a young stud like Banchero care so much even with quite a long runway to go before the playoffs. Anyone who thinks he’s soft or needs to man up, kick rocks.

In order for Orlando to break away from the brink of basketball oblivion, they needed a leader like Banchero. A prodigy ready to assume a ton of responsibility early on, who is dedicated to working at his craft, and will put in extra effort to gut out a few extra wins over the course of the aforementioned 82-game marathon.

Those victories won’t look like much in the grand scheme of things. Beating the 8-48 Pistons in such nail-biting fashion isn’t exactly something to be proud of. However, a win is a win, no matter how ugly it looks. Who knows? This game could be the difference between the Magic being a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference or participating in the play-in tournament. They’re currently tied with the Pacers, right on the play-in bubble.

Being the class act that he is, Banchero apologized for his colorful language at the postgame press conference. Not totally necessary to do. He did it, because that’s the type of guy Banchero seems to be.

The box score ain’t pretty for Banchero. He played sick. Made only five of 17 shots for 15 points. Orlando still put the ball in his hands in the final seconds, and he delivered in the clutch. That’s a sign of somebody who can distinguish themselves as one of the sport’s biggest superstars in the coming years. Banchero should only get more dangerous once he’s recovered from his illness as the postseason draws nearer and nearer.

Just as I get ready to submit, it’s being reported that Banchero will miss the Magic’s second leg of a back-to-back tonight.

That’s fine. Orlando’s king deserves his rest.

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