Basketball / NBA

Rui Hachimura, Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba reunite during All-Star Weekend

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura met up with basketball-playing compatriots Yuta Watanabe and Yudai Baba as part of NBA All-Star Weekend festivities on Friday in Chicago.

The Windy City provided a unique opportunity for the three pros to visit one another during the ongoing season. Hachimura suited up for Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge, a game to showcase the NBA’s top first- and second-year players, on Friday

In the Team World locker room, Hachimura, Watanabe and Baba joked around and posed for photos, becoming the first trio of Japanese to be together as NBA and NBA G League players at the same time during an All-Star weekend. Watanabe and Baba are working as guest commentators on Rakuten’s broadcast coverage of All-Star weekend.

LivOn Global Sports Management, which represents Baba, tweeted, “Historic night! The first time 3 professional Japanese basketball players are attending @NBAAllStar weekend!”

In 30 regular-season games, Hachimura is averaging 13.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists for the Wizards.

Watanabe is in his second season with a two-way contract for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and their NBA G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle. He scored a career-high 40 points for the Hustle against the Delaware Blue Coats on Jan. 22. In 20 G League games, he’s recorded averages of 17.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks this season.

Baba, who helped the Alvark Tokyo capture back-to-back B. League titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19, joined the G League’s Texas Legends (affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks) for the current campaign. The Toyama native is averaging 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 33 games.

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