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Rui Hachimura the center of attention as Wizards get set for Summer League

Rui Hachimura the center of attention as Wizards get set for Summer League

LAS VEGAS -- What the Washington Wizards hope will be a long and decorated career for 2019 first round pick Rui Hachimura will in some ways begin in earnest on Saturday night in Las Vegas, NV as the team kicks off their Summer League schedule against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Hachimura, 21, won't take the floor in a regular season game until the fall, but in Las Vegas he will for the first time suit up as a member of the Wizards in the professional ranks. These games will provide the first look at what he will be as an NBA player as he battles fellow top prospects in the league's annual development league.

Like any draft pick, there is some mystery about what Hachimura will become at the next level. Those questions will begin to be answered in Las Vegas.

One involves his shooting. Hachimura was a gifted scorer in college, but with limited range. He shot 41.7 percent from three his final year at Gonzaga, but on only one attempt per game.

The Wizards hope he can become a more consistent three-point shooter. During the team's mini-camp last week, Hachimura made most of his plays around the rim and in the mid-range, often choosing to put the ball on the floor rather than pull up from the perimeter.

After scrimmages were done, Hachimura took shooting lessons from Wizards player development coach David Adkins. Hachimura proved a quick learner, knocking down shot after shot at the free throw line while testing out a mechanical tweak.

"[We're going over] the basics. Collect my shooting form. He's doing a good job of teaching me. It's very helpful," Hachimura said.

Hachimura should get plenty of shots in the Summer League. Along with 2018 first round pick Troy Brown Jr., he will be one of the team's top scoring options. 

Hachimura should get a solid opportunity in the NBA this fall as well. With the way the Wizards' roster is shaping up, he could be one of their best playmakers. The team will get to see what he's capable of while running their playbook this week.

"It's a lot of stuff," Hachimura said of learning the Wizards' sets. "We have 10-20 plays already."

Summer League head coach Robert Pack said the plan is to put Hachimura into as many different situations as they can. He will likely start at power forward, but will play center in small-ball lineups. They will run plays for him in the post and on the perimeter.

Offense is expected to come quickly for Hachimura. It his defense that is the biggest question entering his rookie year. In Las Vegas, the Wizards will get to assign him to some top draft picks, if they want to give him a test. That could include No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson of the Pelicans.

Hachimura's position, though, is a question in itself. Will he be exclusively a stretch-four or is he athletic enough to play some wing? The Summer League will allow the Wizards to experiment and gauge his versatility at this point.

According to Pack, the Wizards will give Hachimura the greenlight to start the fastbreak off rebounds. And if he has an open three, they want him to take it. Now is the time to build confidence from NBA three-point range.

The Summer League can be a valuable time for NBA player development and this year's is the most important the Wizards have had in years. Hachimura is their highest draft pick since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013 and their roster is full of their top prospects like Brown and second round picks Issuf Sanon (2018) and Admiral Schofield (2019).

There is plenty of intrigue for the Wizards in Las Vegas and Hachimura will be at the center of all of it.

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A comprehensive timeline of Isaiah Thomas' injury history

A comprehensive timeline of Isaiah Thomas' injury history

Isaiah Thomas is out for six to eight weeks after undergoing successful surgery on his radial collateral ligament in his left thumb Wednesday.

His absence will leave the Wizards perilously thin at point guard heading into the season.

“This was an unfortunate setback for Isaiah, but with his resolve and the top care he will receive from our medical team, we expect him to make a full recovery,” Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard said in a release. “In the meantime, he will continue to mentor our young guards and have a positive impact on the team as we start training camp.”

Thomas' thumb issue is the latest in a long line of injuries that have caused him to miss time during his nine-year NBA career.

Here's a list of injuries that Isaiah Thomas has sustained during his playing career:

April 2013 — A quadriceps contusion kept Thomas out for 10 games, the first time in his career he was sidelined with an injury.

Aug. 14, 2014 — Thomas underwent arthroscopic wrist surgery during the offseason to fix an issue he'd been dealing with since the prior season.

Nov. - Dec. 2014 — Thomas sprained his ankle while with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns went 3-5 in his absence.

March 9, 2015 — Thomas, after moving to the Celtics, missed eight games with a lower back injury. Boston went 5-3 while Thomas was sidelined. 

Dec. 2016 — In the next season, still with the Celtics, a groin strain kept Thomas out for four games.

March 16, 2017 — Later that same season, a knee bruise sidelined Thomas for two more games.

May 4, 2017 — During the playoffs, Thomas had his tooth knocked out in the middle of a game. He didn't miss any time, but it's impossible to make this list without including that incident.

May 20, 2017 — Two weeks later, a hip injury kept him out for the rest of the Celtics' playoff run.

Sept. 7, 2017 — After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cavs' medical staff had questions about the health of Thomas' hip. To complete the deal, the Celtics sent another second-round draft pick via the Miami Heat to the Cavaliers. Lingering hip issues would keep Thomas out until Jan. 6, 2018.

March 29, 2018 — Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in early February, only to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right hip at the end of March. With a projected four-month recovery time, he was done for the season.

Sept. 18, 2019 — Thomas finished the 2018 season with the Denver Nuggets and signed with the Wizards in July of 2019. On Sept. 16, he injured his left thumb in team workouts. On Sept. 18, the team announced he'd undergone successful surgery and would be out for six to eight weeks.

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Isaiah Thomas injury puts Wizards in tenuous spot at point guard position

Isaiah Thomas injury puts Wizards in tenuous spot at point guard position

The Wizards were already walking a tightrope with their point guard situation when news broke Wednesday that Isaiah Thomas will miss the next six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb. Now with Thomas out, they are perilously thin at an important position.

Thomas will miss all of training camp, the preseason and possibly several weeks of the regular season. That leaves Ish Smith as the de facto starter with a host of non-ideal options behind him.

The No. 2 point guard for now will be left for undrafted rookie Justin Robinson, 19-year-old Isaac Bonga or someone like Troy Brown Jr. or Jordan McRae, both of whom the Wizards would prefer to see play other roles. Bradley Beal will also see time on the ball, according to someone familiar with their plans.

This is all in the context of John Wall's ruptured Achilles surgery that could keep him sidelined for all of the 2019-20 season. With Wall out for several months at a minimum, the Wizards have major questions at his position.

The positive news, if you're looking for some, is that Thomas didn't reinjure his hip. This is a new injury, albeit one to his shooting hand. It is also something that likely won't affect them far into the regular season. 

Thomas was also not going to play a ton in the preseason. The Wizards had plans to limit his minutes as a veteran with a detailed injury history.

But with their current point guard crop, they can ill-afford any injuries at all. They were already taking a risk on Thomas after he played only 12 games last season.

It's worth noting the Wizards opted to go with Smith and Thomas in the offseason instead of re-signing point guard Tomas Satoransky, who left in free agency for the Chicago Bulls. They instead spent that money on Smith and Thomas.

Despite their current issues at point guard, the Wizards do not have plans to bring in significant reinforcements, according to a source. They did, though, recently add Chris Chiozza as a camp invite, NBC Sports Washington was told. He spent time with the Wizards and Rockets last season.

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