When Paolo Banchero grew up in Washington, the eventual No. 1 pick by the Orlando Magic often watched Kevin Durant play with the Seattle SuperSonics. He even got to see him closely in a pro-am game in the Pacific Northwest.
On Monday, Banchero got to face him for the first time in the NBA.
Banchero and the Magic matched up against Durant and the Nets, and got a first-hand view of yet another signature performance by the former MVP. Durant dropped a season-high 45 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in the 109-102 win.
Durant scored 19 points alone in the third quarter and only missed one shot in 13 attempts in the second half. He only missed five shots for the entire game. In other words, Durant had his way with Banchero and every other player the Magic sent at him.
“That was definitely a great performance,” Banchero said. “He didn’t miss many shots. That was a tough cover, man. I don’t got much to say about that. That was just amazing. That’s what he does. That’s Kevin Durant.”
Banchero tied a team-high with 24 points to lead the Magic in 38 minutes of work. It was his 10th game with at least 20 points, the most by a rookie this season. He also added five assists, four rebounds and two steals on 9-of-17 shooting from the field.
Banchero studied Durant often growing up and tried to take bits of his game and incorporate them into his own. He even tried to recruit him to Orlando when Durant requested a trade from the Nets over the offseason, something that was seen as a joke in nature.
The two had the opportunity to speak after the game on Monday at the Barclays Center. Durant signed a jersey for him and gave the 20-year-old some advice.
Banchero shared some of the message from Durant.
Just to keep going, stay healthy. He was showing his respects. I did the same. That is was one of the guys I always watched growing up. He played for the Sonics, came to Seattle for the pro-am. I remember watching him when I was really young, like 12 years old watching him play at (the pro-am at) the Seattle Pacific (University) gym. It is crazy to be on an NBA floor against him. It is a full-circle moment.
Although Banchero and the Magic left with a loss, the contest is likely one that Banchero will remember for quite some time after facing a legend like Durant.