It only took until Deni Avdija's second NBA game for him to gain an experience all NBA rookies get at some point. On Saturday night in the Wizards' loss to the Magic, Avdija got a taste of how the NBA is officiated and, according to his coach, specifically how NBA rookies are treated by the referees.
Avdija, the ninth overall pick in the 2020 draft, picked up two fouls in the first three minutes and 22 seconds of the game. That got him subbed out for Troy Brown Jr. Avdija would return with 11:22 left in the second quarter and pick up his third foul just a minute and 21 seconds later.
The early foul trouble stripped Avdija of any chance to get into the rhythm of the game. He finished with just five points and three rebounds in 15 minutes, with four fouls and a -7 in the box score.
Defending without fouling is an art at the NBA level and, though Avdija has shown some instincts in that regard, he will have to learn the tricks of the trade just like everyone else.
"It's just part of the rookie initiation. They say that doesn't happen, but we all know and have been around the league long enough," head coach Scott Brooks said after the game.
"He's just gotta keep putting his head down and not complaining. I [reviewed the plays] at halftime... I didn't think two of them were fouls. That's just part of growing up in this league. He's going to learn. He's going to learn to do that. There's some things you just can't control."
Avdija is likely to learn from the experience quickly. He played professionally overseas and has come to the Wizards with an advanced understanding of the game for his age, at just 19 years old. His grasp of team defense and contesting shots without making contact has stood out so far in his five games; three in the preseason, two in the regular season.
Teammate Thomas Bryant has seen enough of Avdija to know it won't take long for him to adjust.
"I remember [going through] that. It's tough, but we've all got his back," Bryant said. "He's going to work, he's going to work so much harder. These are just growing pains for him. We all went through them. He'll learn from it. I have no doubt that he will."
Avdija has an opportunity to correct things against the same team, as the Wizards and Magic will run it back on Sunday night. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.