Basketball / NBA

Rui Hachimura makes debut for Wizards in NBA Summer League

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Washington Wizards first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura competed in his first NBA Summer League game on Saturday, contributing to the team’s 84-79 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Thomas and Mack Center.

The 21-year-old forward, playing for the first time since his final appearance for Gonzaga University during the NCAA Tournament in March, got off to a shaky start and committed a few miscues in the first half. The rookie from Toyama Prefecture eventually found his footing, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half.

Hachimura, taken ninth in last month’s draft, even displayed his exceptional athleticism with an alley-oop dunk in the third quarter and later scored a layup despite being guarded by two defenders underneath the basket in the fourth quarter.

After the contest, Hachimura admitted he lacked a feel for the game but said he enjoyed the experience.

“I hadn’t played a 5-on-5 game for a while, so it felt great to be back on the court,” said Hachimura, who played just over 33 minutes — more than any player on either team. “I’d been missing 5-on-5 ball.”

The 2018-19 West Coast Conference Player of the Year also grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.

Hachimura said he takes as much pride in his defense as he does in his offensive game and was pleased he was able to show some of what he can do on the defensive end.

Wizards stars John Wall and Bradley Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were courtside for the game. Hachimura said he was happy to get off to a fine start with his NBA team.

“The Pelicans had already played (on Friday), but today was our first game and it was good for us to be on the winning side,” Hachimura said.

Washington’s summer league bench boss Robert Pack had planned to give Hachimura the ball early in the contest in order to reduce his nervousness and said it “helped settle him down” afterward. He added that “the summer league is all about” examining things and putting the players in different situations.

At the start of the second quarter, Hachimura shared the floor with compatriot Makoto Hiejima, who is on the Pelicans’ summer league roster. Although they were only on the floor together for a few minutes, Hachimura stressed that it was still a “big moment” for two Japanese players to play in the same NBA Summer League game.

In his second summer league game, Hiejima was on the court for 5 minutes, 16 seconds, all in the first half. The 28-year-old Japan national team star guard was 0-for-2 from the field and did not score.

“I was going to take shots if I got on the court, and I did that,” said Hiejima who was the 2017-18 B. League MVP with the SeaHorses Mikawa. “But I have to make them (because) my chances are limited, because I don’t know when I’ll be given another chance to play next.”

Zion Williamson, this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick for New Orleans, did not play after it was announced he would miss the remainder of the summer league after suffering a bruised knee during Friday’s game against the New York Knicks.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Memphis Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe went 5-for-7 from the field and 15 points in a 101-75 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Alvark Tokyo’s athletic guard/forward Yudai Baba scored eight points in just under 17 minutes for the Dallas Mavericks in their 113-81 win over the Houston Rockets.