A catch-up on Japan-focused hoops news from the NBA and closer to home:
- After sitting out for weeks due to coronavirus safety measures, Rui Hachimura said on Jan. 30 that his return to NBA action has been “very difficult physically and mentally.” Fast forward nine days and the Washington Wizard seems to be back in the swing of things, celebrating his 23rd birthday with his first double-double of the year as the Wizards beat the Bulls 105-101 in Chicago.
- Yuta Watanabe, in his first season with the Toronto Raptors, is now racking up regular playing time on court. While he failed to score in the Raptors’ 128-113 win over his old team the Grizzlies on Monday, he posted a personal-high seven rebounds. Next, he’s off to Washington to compete against compatriot Hachimura. “I’ve wanted to face him after getting more minutes, so I’m looking forward to stepping onto the court as a member of the Raptors, and it’ll be a fun time,” he tells Kaz Nagatsuka.
- The Kawasaki Brave Thunders need to stay desperate if they are to have a chance of rescuing their B. League season, former NBA star Nick Fazekas tells Nagatsuka: “As a team, we have to really believe that we can get a sweep.” While a place in the playoffs is in danger of drifting out of view, Kawasaki have an Emperor’s Cup semi to look forward to after their comeback win against the Chiba Jets Funabashi last month.
- Teenage sensation Yuki Kawamura has drawn a spotlight on the Yokohama B-Corsairs, a club that has rarely been the subject of attention from B. League fans, writes Nagatsuka. With his speed, agility and the way he manages the teammates on-court, the 19-year-old is already earning comparisons to talents such as Yuta Tabuse of the Utsunomiya Brex and Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets.
- The Japan Basketball Association has announced its provisional 24-man roster for the upcoming third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Doha. The squad that will be heading to Qatar consists solely of B. League players, including stars such as the Jets’ Togashi, Alvark Tokyo guard Daiki Tanaka and SeaHorses Mikawa sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru.