• Neil Dalal

Rui Hachimura enters sophomore season excited and more confident

In a normal world NBA teams would have held their 2020-21 season Media Day a couple of months ago. Now due to the ongoing pandemic, teams are hosting virtual Media Week in December with training camp, preseason, and the regular season in successive weeks. Head coach Scott Brooks and sophomore forward Rui Hachimura were the first to speak for the Wizards on Tuesday.

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, and Thomas Bryant can be penciled in as your Opening Night starters. Who will be starting at small forward to round out the lineup is still wide open between Isaac Bonga, Troy Brown Jr., and Deni Avdija. Darkhorse candidates would be Jerome Robinson or Davis Bertans.

"The 3, the wing spot, it’s wide open," Brooks confirmed. "It’s definitely wide open. Bonga, Troy [Brown Jr.], Deni [Avdija]. I can see Deni play a few different spots, Bonga can probably play a few different spots, Troy, Jerome [Robinson], those guys are all going to be fighting for minutes. That’s what you want and that’s how you come a better team year over year."

Despite the drama surrounding John Wall and the Washington Wizards that has not really gone away, Brooks did his job to sell the excitement of the returning five-time All-Star. Just like many of his teammates, Hachimura is excited to share the court with the ball sharing point guard, too.

"Great fit for me," Hachimura said about playing with Wall. "I watched a lot of film of John this offseason."

Hachimura, 22, had a strong rookie season averaging 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. The Wizards have high hopes for more from the Gonzaga product in Year 2 and that starts with an improved 3-point shot after a lowly 28.7 percent (25/87) line last season. After an abbreviated offseason of working on his shot diligently, all invested parties already see a difference. Now we will have to see if it translates to games.

"I'm more confident shooting threes," Hachimura simply stated before adding that it will help him play more positions like the 3. "I got more comfortable shooting threes and that's where I think the arc came from. I didn't even change shooting form."

"I met with Rui in Los Angeles a few times," Brooks said. "Saw his individual workouts and one of the things I noticed instantly that he’s a little more confident. As a rookie, it’s hard to really step in and let loose and be yourself because you are just figuring out things yourself. Just talking to him, it’s easier, he’s not so reserved. I see that and that’s going to help. I see his shot, I’m not saying he’s going to be Bertans, but his 3-point shooting has improved. He has more arc on his shot so it has a better chance of going in. He’s gotten stronger, he’s worked on his body."

On paper, the Wizards have a competitive roster, but in the improving Eastern Conference, the playoffs are not necessarily a given. Many don't see Washington as a playoff team, but Hachimura is not one of them.

"I feel like we're going to make the playoffs for sure and then I don't know how much we can go from there. It's going to be a fun year for my second year," Hachimura proclaimed.

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