Paolo Banchero eases his way onto the All-Star stage

Paolo Banchero made his All-Star debut and looked to be trying to figure out what the game is all about. They will never take away his first trip to the NBA's showcase game.
Paolo Banchero made his All-Star debut with some meager stats, but memories that will last forever.
Paolo Banchero made his All-Star debut with some meager stats, but memories that will last forever. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Paolo Banchero has not been in the national spotlight that much in his first two seasons.

Reggie Miller made this point late in the third quarter, saying that the Orlando Magic are not on TV that often and that he had not been around Paolo Banchero. The national media is still getting a sense of this young All-Star's game.

But the first thing anyone notices -- and the thing Miller pointed out to the national audience -- is that Banchero is much bigger than he looks on TV. I can certainly confirm that the first time I saw him. That is always the first impression Banchero leaves.

He is a bigger presence than he seems and he uses that physicality well.

Perhaps that is symbolic of everything that this night meant for Banchero. He is someone who has some gravity and attention on him. He is someone who stands out in the crowd.

Even on an All-Star stage, it is hard not to notice Banchero. All eyes are always on him.

As a first-time All-Star, Banchero walked onto the stage and eased himself into the game. He is still getting everyone comfortable with him in the spotlight. It is hard to deny Banchero's star power when you watch him on the court.

Now, the task will be getting his game and his team up to speed to make trips to the NBA's winter showcase game more frequent. For a first outing, Banchero seemed eager to soak in the atmosphere and get a feel for the game as he worked his way into the established group of perennial All-Stars.

Banchero's stat line is certainly not as flashy as the final score -- a record-setting 211-186 Eastern Conference win. He posted a solid six points, nine rebounds and five assists. He seemed determined to get others involved. With all the space on the floor and the 3-point shooting around him, why not?

Still, that first moment when Banchero got his first point had to be special. Going coast-to-coast after a rebound for a two-handed slam had to be a pinch-me moment.

"It was great," Banchero said after the All-Star Game. "I'm just smiling the whole night, for real. This was what I was waiting for. Just being around all the fans and the players was special."

A first-time All-Star Game is always filled with those, especially for someone as young as Banchero -- the youngest and least experienced player who made the cut this year. As a newcomer on the scene, you have to find your place among the greats.

Banchero got every player on the Eastern Conference team to sign his Seattle Seahawks green shoes he wore during the game, telling reporters afterward that he was still looking for All-Star MVP Damian Lillard to complete his collection.

You sometimes forget that he is still a kid living out his dream, playing among the game's best. He is still realizing that he, too, is among those players. It is not normal quite yet.

Banchero is a larger-than-life presence, but he is still fresh on the scene. Everyone is still getting to know him. He is still trying to find his way onto the big stage, or at least the All-Star stage.

"To accomplish this and be on the court with all these guys," Banchero said after the All-Star Game. "I looked up to all these guys growing up and watched them nonstop. It's a crazy moment. I'm glad I got to experience it."

Caution is always how a lot of first-time All-Stars play. They are deferential to the starters and the players who have been there before and know the drill. They are still trying to get into the "in group."

Banchero has credibility with a lot of those players. He has worked out with Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant during the summer. They have heaped tons of praise on him.

He has built a solid body of work through two seasons to earn that, averaging 23.0 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 5.3 assists per game. He has the Magic sitting in eighth in the Eastern Conference, within striking distance of sixth and skipping the Play-In entirely. Everyone around the league knows how good the Magic are and how Banchero has led the team to that point.

That recognition is coming on a bigger stage. Banchero is still dipping his toe in the water to some extent. He is still getting a feel for what it means to be among the league's elite.

So Banchero was happy to be a good teammate during his first All-Star Game. He was willing to thread passes as he collapsed the defense around him in the paint -- or what passes for defense in the All-Star Game.

"I definitely felt like the young guy though, as I should, right," Banchero said after the All-Star Game. "It was good to get out here. There were a lot of all-time greats and a lot of Hall of Famers on that court today. I'm definitely going to try to get as many pictures as I can today. Definitely going to remember."

Paolo Banchero was a victim of one of the few defensive plays in the game when Stephen Curry hit his hand on a dunk attempt. Not everything is easy during this exhibition game.

But Banchero still had big moments on the stage, setting up his teammates to keep the 3-point train going. He got plenty of time on the floor with the East so thin at forward.

It was only late that Banchero started to force some jumpers. But he seems like someone who needs some intensity and purpose to find his rhythm. This is not the kind of game that seems to fit Banchero's eye, even though Banchero has the vibe about him that he likes to go with the flow.

There is a fire to win in him, though. That just does not come out in the modern version of the All-Star Game.

Everyone is still getting to know Banchero on that national stage. He is still aiming to push his way onto bigger stages and more notoriety. Ultimately, his play will earn him that recognition.

Banchero will be pulling the team up with him. This felt like a first trip, not the last for him and the Magic.

"It means a lot to be able to represent the Magic here at such a prestigious event," Banchero said after the All-Star Game. "This is the best of the best at the All-Star Game. I definitely want to continue to represent Orlando here. Hopefully, others join."

Banchero's first All-Star Game was not a statement or a demand for attention. It was his proof that he belonged with these players. It was for him to soak in the memories of being among the greats. It was for him to begin to understand his idols are now his peers.

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His presence is large on the court. Now he has seen he belongs. The quest to push for more has begun.