Shaquille O’Neal was the first superstar in Orlando Magic history.
Paolo Banchero is taking steps to become the latest after winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors last season and earning his first All-Star berth this season.
Tuesday, the pair will come together when the Magic take on the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the game, O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey will be the first retired by the Magic.
Before that ceremony, Banchero will have a chance to shine in a showcase of the top picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, in which the Magic took Banchero with the No. 1 pick and the Thunder selected Chet Holmgren at No. 2.
It will be their second and final matchup against each other this season. In their first, Jan. 13 in Oklahoma City, Banchero had 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists while Holmgren had 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
But Holmgren and the Thunder came away with a 112-100 victory, thanks in large part to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 37 points.
The Magic were without key pieces of their lineup that night, with starters Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz and reserves Gary Harris and Joe Ingles out.
Orlando is back to full strength and is coming off a 114-108 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
The Magic have won back-to-back games and five of their last six.
Over the last four games, Wagner has averaged 30.3 points per game and is shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor.
While Magic coach Jamahl Mosley praised Wagner for the way he’s responded recently, Mosley also credited Banchero.
“A lot of these things are coming out of the applied pressure to Paolo,” Mosley said. “They’re loaded up to Paolo. They double-team him on the block and he’s swinging it cross-court to Franz. … His ability to recognize double teams and make the right play, which gives the freedom to a lot of these other guys to make easier plays.”
Banchero has at least six assists in each of his last 10 games.
The Thunder are coming off a 127-113 home win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday and have won nine of their last 13.
Oklahoma City forced 18 turnovers in the win and scored 30 points off those turnovers.
In the first meeting this season, the Thunder scored 23 points off 16 Magic turnovers while Orlando scored just 10 points off nine Oklahoma City turnovers.
“Being able to get out in transition, I think puts a lot of pressure on a lot of defenses,” Jalen Williams said. “And then that opens us being able to cut and play off each other that way.”
The Thunder will be without their two newest acquisitions, Gordon Hayward and Bismack Biyombo, until after the All-Star break.
Hayward, who was acquired at the trade deadline, has not played since Dec. 26 due to a calf injury, while Biyombo was waived by the Grizzlies on Jan. 10 before signing with the Thunder on Saturday.
The Thunder filled their roster Monday, officially announcing the signing of Adam Flagler to a two-way contract.
–Field Level Media
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