Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner are Orlando Magic's ticket to more national TV appearances

The Orlando Magic got their game in the spotlight this week and Paolo Banchero will be front and center at All-Star Weekend. The ticket to more time in the spotlight rests on their stars.

Paolo Banchero is front and center at All-Star Weekend, his biggest NBA stage to date in his career.
Paolo Banchero is front and center at All-Star Weekend, his biggest NBA stage to date in his career. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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The moment of the Rising Stars Game on Friday came courtesy of Paolo Banchero.

With Bennedict Mathurin at the foul line and a chance to end the game, he turned to Paolo Banchero and said loud enough for the courtside mics to make out, "$25,000 I make both free throws and end the game." Banchero responded, "Bet."

Mathurin proceeded to miss both. And while Mathurin's Team Jalen would end up winning the game -- and the Rising Stars tournament -- Banchero still made sure to remind the Indiana Pacers sophomore he was going to collect.

He is still looking to collect.

That is the quiet personality and confidence Banchero has. Like so much about him, everyone is still learning who he is.

He has not had many opportunities with the spotlight on him since he was the No. 1 pick in the 2022 Draft, even with his team in the postseason chase.

In Friday's Rising Stars game, Banchero was content to be in the background, settling for a few threes and putting in a dunk in a seven-point effort in the narrow loss. That is how All-Star games go. But it is just the first of three appearances for Banchero this weekend -- and he has said the one he wants is the Skills Competition on Saturday night.

Still, for the 30-40 minutes Banchero was playing, he and the Orlando Magic were back in the spotlight. Banchero will have the Magic in that rare national spotlight all weekend.

"Getting to be able to play on a worldwide stage and represent my team and myself is always a good experience," Banchero said after Friday's Rising Stars game. "I always want to do good for the fans. For the fans that don't know you, you want to put on a good show so they do know you."

The Magic have not had many opportunities to get the national audience to know who they are. They had their lone scheduled national TV appearance earlier this week in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Orlando may not be back on national TV again until the playoffs begin. Banchero's appearances at All-Star Weekend will be the only time he and the Magic may be in front of a national audience until they reach the postseason.

This is a team trying to get some attention and earn some notoriety.

Banchero being on the All-Star team does put him in the spotlight even for a bit -- although, do not expect Banchero to get a ton of time with more prominent stars and starters crowding for attention. He is still introducing himself to the All-Star community.

The ticket for the Magic is to have stars and win games. A big performance or two in the playoffs will go a long way to establishing their place on the national stage. That is the big decider for the NBA's upcoming national TV schedule.

That still turns back to the Magic's two young stars -- Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner -- to step up on the stage when the time comes. That is where the Magic are confident their future is still forming.

"Their will to win," Wendell Carter said of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner after practice Monday. "Yes, they are phenomenal scorers. I think we all know that. What people don't understand is they do all the little things that help us win. They are very smart players. For both of them being young, they have a very high IQ for the game. They also just take what the game gives them. They don't force anything. They just play the game the right way. That's what makes them so much more special than a lot of other young stars in the league."

That was how both seemed to play in Tuesday's game. Banchero had a relatively quiet 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He had 10 assists. With the Thunder putting a zone on him to get the ball out of his hands, Banchero was patient and tried to find openings for everyone else.

That should have opened the door for Wagner. But he struggled, going for 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting. In a rare inefficient game finishing at the rim, Wagner made only 3 of 9 shots in the restricted area. The Chet Holmgren effect was real.

What was most unfortunate about that game was that this would be the Magic's lone national statement before the playoffs. How are they supposed to get more?

The playoffs are obviously the bigger audition for the team and its two young stars. Most of those games will be on national TV and in front of a larger audience.

But the league markets itself on its stars. And so it is on Banchero and Wagner to demand attention on that bigger stage.

Banchero already has a lot of it from his peers. He has had the chance to workout with Kevin Durant, and all the elite players in the league seem ready to welcome Banchero into their ranks. This weekend is only further cementing that. Other young players are telling the world they are not paying enough attention to what Banchero is doing.

In his second year, Banchero is still putting up impressive numbers and handling the pressure of being a franchise player as well as anyone could expect.

"Getting to Orlando, having expectations, going through the ups and downs of my rookie year taught me a lot," Banchero said after the Rising Stars game Friday. "My first year in the league taught me so much. I had a lot of people who helped me with advice and words of encouragement. That helps me a lot. It keeps me going and lets me know what I can keep getting better at. The pressure, you know it's going to come, so the way you handle it reflects who you are."

The better Banchero gets, the bigger games he has, the more All-Star Games he receives, and the better his team does, ultimately leading to the national attention the team deserves and has earned. It is taking time for the league executives to put the Magic on TV more.

Pretty soon, it will likely lead to the attention Magic fans seek. It all lies on their stars' shoulders.

This team is getting better by leaps and bounds -- Banchero said he has learned more in his 18 months in the NBA than probably his last three or four years playing as he shook his head at the thought he should be a junior at Duke right now. The Magic will soon be an undeniable part of the NBA landscape.

"I think the biggest thing is they are great people," Magic great and NBATV broadcaster Dennis Scott said after practice Monday. "Paolo is a great young man. Make sure you all appreciate that while he's young. Please take care of Paolo because he's a really good kid. He wants to win. He wants to do the right thing. Sometimes he's over-unselfish. I think he could shoot the ball a little bit more. He's been taught the right way, so he's over-unselfish. I just hope you all take good care of him."

Banchero is still finding his place in the NBA and establishing himself. The Magic are still more concerned with his internal growth and development.

The franchise is not necessarily seeking the spotlight. That will find the team if they grow and climb the standings.

dark. Next. Magic goals All-Star 02.16.24. Orlando Magic accomplishing goals, hungry for more

This weekend will show the Magic have a player worth building around once again. The team will go as far as its stars will take them.

They will grab that spotlight fans are so hungry for.