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Rui Hachimura had the play of the game, but Team USA routs Japan

Rui Hachimura had the play of the game, but Team USA routs Japan

Rui Hachimura and Team Japan were blown out, 98-45, by Team USA in the FIBA World Cup on Thursday morning. Here are five observations from the Wizards' 2019 first round pick's performance... 

1. Though there was much to analyze about Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura's showdown with Team USA on Thursday morning, there is only one way to begin a story about his game. That is with his dunk over Pacers center Myles Turner, which was undoubtedly the play of the game, even if it in no way indicated how the rest of the day for Japan went.

Hachimura had looked lost in the first half, unable to break free from the defense of Harrison Barnes and Mason Plumlee. But he came out of the locker room in the third quarter more assertive and caught Team USA sleeping on a quick drive to the rim.

He was guarded by Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton on the wing and took off on a catch-and-go with his right hand. He dashed into the lane, got good lift off his left foot and brought the sledgehammer down on Turner, who led the NBA in blocks last season.

It was a powerful slam that may go down as Hachimura's best moment of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. It also should give Wizards fans hope about his ability to translate quickly to the NBA. If he can dunk on Turner, he can dunk on anybody in the world. 

2. The dunk aside, Hachimura had a rough game overall against the United States, as did many of his teammates. He went scoreless in the first quarter despite playing all 10 minutes and finished with four points (2-8 FG), four rebounds, two steals and an assist. 

Hachimura was able to break free in the second half, but in the first he was stifled by USA's defense. Plumlee proved a difficult match-up with his size and strength and he was able to keep Hachimura far away from the rim. Japan could barely get Hachimura the ball in the first half because of the pressure USA put on their guards beyond the three-point line. And when Hachimura did receive a pass, he was often not close enough to the basket to create.

All of that prevented Hachimura from ever getting into a rhythm. Before the dunk, he squandered the few opportunities for daylight that he saw. On one play early in the third, he tried to power through Barnes only to miss badly off the backboard. A few plays later, he pulled up around the free throw line and clanged a shot off the rim.

3. There were many mismatches between Team USA and Japan, but the most obvious was down low as Japan lacks the size and athleticism of USA's big men. Hachimura had to essentially play the five and did not look natural in that role.

Where Hachimura struggled in particular was setting screens. It just isn't his game. He doesn't have the size or technique, and seemed to shy away from committing to contact. Not setting good screens prevented Hachimura from then getting open on rolls to the basket.

Maybe it's something he can get better at over time, but it looks like his pick-and-roll game needs some work if the Wizards plan to utilize him in those sets.

4. Overall, Japan was dominated by the United States, even though the U.S. sent essentially their J.V. roster to China. They don't have any superstars on the team this summer, yet they still blasted Japan by 43 points.

That was, of course, not surprising. Most important to note is that this is the state of Japan basketball in 2019. It goes to show how rare it is for a talent like Hachimura to come from the country and how much potential there is for growth in the sport.

Thursday served as almost a baseline test for Team Japan. Now that they have Hachimura, and former George Washington University star Yuta Watanabe, where can the country's basketball team go from here?

It will probably take a generation, but perhaps there were some young children in Japan watching this game thinking 'that could be me someday.' We have seen it in Canada following the emergence of the Toronto Raptors and Steve Nash's two NBA MVPs. Nowadays, it is common to see players from Canada become NBA stars and top draft picks.

Will the same happen in Japan? Perhaps we will see in 10-to-15 years.

5. Hachimura only played 24 minutes as Japan had him on a pitch count to limit his workload. That is good news for the Wizards, who should be mindful of the fact Hachimura is about to play more games than he ever has before in his basketball career.

Playing in the NBA Summer League already put more on his plate. Now he's in the World Cup and this upcoming NBA season will play upwards of 82 games after never playing more than 37 in college. He also has the 2020 Olympics next summer.

The next calendar year is going to feature a lot of basketball for Hachimura and that will put a strain on him both physically and mentally as he adjusts to the professional ranks.


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Bradley Beal enters 2019-20 season in an unfamiliar role, says patience will be key

Bradley Beal enters 2019-20 season in an unfamiliar role, says patience will be key

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal ran his palm across his left cheek as he spoke, highlighting the new style of facial hair he has maintained throughout the preseason. Though it is trimmed symmetrically, it's not exactly what he dreamed of when he started growing it out.

"I've got my chops. I'm still trying to get them to connect," he said. "I'm 26 and I still can't grow a beard."

Some of that scruff may turn gray by the end of the 2019-20 season, Beal's eighth in the NBA. He has a new role, one of franchise player, something he has never been to this extent entering a season before. Though he has played plenty with John Wall sidelined due to injuries, he has never gone into a season as 'the guy.'

And, though he knows what it's like to be on a rebuilding team likely headed south of the playoffs from his early days in the NBA, he hasn't done that while being an established, All-Star player. This year could test his resolve if things go as many have predicted.

Not only could there be more losses than victories, but Beal will have to get used to playing with teammates a lot younger and less experienced than him. The Wizards' opening night starting lineup, for instance, has three players Age 22 or younger.

"It's definitely going to be a patient, long year. I will be saying that word a lot. Just being patient and understanding," he told NBC Sports Washington.

"It's a growing year, just realizing that I can't expect everybody to be perfect. I can't expect them to know what to do in every situation."

Beal plans to do his part both in games and in practices to make sure the young players fall in line. The fact he just signed a contract extension keeping him in Washington through at least the 2021-22 season shows everyone in the organization he is committed long-term. That should boost the respect he already commands as a star player.

Now, when young players look at him during frustrating times, they know he isn't pondering an exit strategy. He is here to stay and they have to follow his lead.

Beal has developed into a vocal leader and he can be hard on young players behind the scenes, especially the ones he expects the most out of.

"I know these guys are young, but I know they aren't going to fulfill their potential unless I push them there," he said.

It will be interesting to see how that plays out during and after games. There are probably going to be nights where he plays in lineups with four players who could still be in college. They may make mistakes and possibly at crucial times. Beal will have to let those teaching moments slide and choose how to categorize them to the media afterwards.

Though the Wizards have some veterans on their team, head coach Scott Brooks is planning to rely more on younger players than he has in the past. He was criticized by fans last season for not playing Troy Brown Jr. even when it appeared obvious he could help. There were some in the front office who wondered what was taking so long.

Those types of disagreements happen within organizations and within coaching staffs. But this year, Brooks may have no choice.

"The opportunity is definitely going to be there this year," Brooks told NBC Sports Washington. "Troy's going to have a great opportunity to make an impact."

Brooks will be tasked with doling out minutes and, for young players, he says there is a "sweet spot" between having them earn their playing time and getting the chance to play through mistakes.

"This is not an 'everybody get a ribbon' league. You can't play everybody," he said.

Brooks mentioned the Capital City Go-Go as a resource to use to ensure guys get game experience, even if it is not at the NBA level. But overall, for coaches like Brooks and leaders like Beal, they will have to take a nurturing approach. Brooks said that for him that could mean having lunch with young players or taking them out to coffee at a local restaurant. Maybe Beal will have to lead in more creative ways, beyond just setting an example.

There is no question a lot is going to be on Beal's plate. For the foreseeable future, the Wizards are his team. Wall may be back at some point this season, but he could miss it all due to his ruptured left Achilles injury. 

For the newcomers on the Wizards' roster, Wall's absence won't mean much because they haven't played with him before. Beal is the one who will have to adjust and take on a larger role. That could be as simple as taking more shots.

Beal has set career-highs in shot attempts each of the last three seasons. He ranked seventh in the NBA last year with 19.6 shots per game and that number could increase this year.

"I definitely know that my shot attempts probably have to go up," Beal said.

He may even approach a goal Brooks has publicly set for him; to shoot 20 threes in a game. 

"I might get to it this year, I don't know. But I don't want to just be considered a chuck," he said. 

"That's just not me. I'm an efficient guy. I'm not a bad shot taker. I play the right way no matter what the score of the game is. I know this year I'm definitely going to have be a lot more aggressive. There might be times where I have to take some heat checks and when I'm not hot, but I've gotta take them."

Though it may not feel natural for Beal to take a ton of shots, the opportunity is there for him to be the focus of an offense like few players in the NBA are. He could take 20-plus shots per game and chase a scoring title if he wants to.

Most players would love to have that type of green light. But Beal also wants to win and he may fall frustratingly short of doing so this season. Let's check back in on him in a few months.



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Wizards at Mavericks Game 1: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards at Mavericks Game 1: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Wizards head to Dallas for their regular-season opener. Bradley Beal will lead this new-look Washington group against one of the league's most dynamic duos in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

Here is everything you need to know.


What: Washington Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks, 2019 NBA Season Game 1

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX.

When: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Mavericks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Mavericks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM


7:30 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

8:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

8:30 PM: Wizards vs. Mavericks (LIVE)

11:00 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

11:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)


Wizards: John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out), Troy Brown Jr. (left calf strain – out), Ian Mahinmi (right Achilles strain – out), Isaiah Thomas (left thumb rehab – out), C.J. Miles (left foot rehab – out)

Mavericks: Dwight Powell (left hamstring strain – out), Ryan Broekhoff (right ankle sprain – questionable)


Number of all-time Meetings: 75

Regular Season Record: Mavericks lead Wizards 43-32

Last Meeting: 3/6/19, Wizards won 132-123

Last 10: Mavericks lead 8-2