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Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura is a 'late bloomer' in basketball, but the Washington Wizards like that

Rui Hachimura was introduced to the sport of basketball at 13 years old after spending his childhood on the baseball diamond, emulating Ichiro Suzuki, as many kids in Japan do. Just eight years later, Hachimura has charted his own path as the first Japanese-born lottery pick in the NBA after the Washington Wizards drafted him at No. 9 overall.

That trajectory is important to note when considering Hachimura's age. He is 21 years old, which is on the older side for an NBA draft prospect in the age of one-and-dones. But, you could say he's only eight in basketball years.

That's not a technical term used by NBA front office executives, but the fact Hachimura is a "late bloomer" was one of the biggest selling points for the Wizards. That's how interim team president Tommy Sheppard described him on several occasions the night of the draft and the day after. And even majority owner Ted Leonsis referenced it when asked about the pick in an interview with the Washington Times over the weekend.

While reason may suggest a younger player has higher upside, the Wizards are looking beyond simple age. In Hachimura, they believe they have a player who could benefit from not having the year-round strain of AAU basketball in his past.

"When you come to the game a little bit later, maybe you don't have some bad habits that you accumulate. You don't have a lot of extra miles," Sheppard said. 

"Those kinds of things resonate with us. You have to be healthy to play in the NBA, and there are so many players in this particular draft that for whatever reason, there are a lot of sad faces tonight because I think medical held a lot of people back. He has a clean bill of health, and that's exciting to us."

Sheppard could have been referencing any number of prospects who carried the label as an injury risk into draft night. With the ninth overall pick, the Wizards took Hachimura over Duke's Cam Reddish, who has several red flags, injuries among them. In the second round, they passed on Oregon's Bol Bol, who had a stress fracture in his foot, in favor of Admiral Schofield.

But health isn't the only potential benefit of picking up the game at a later age. Sheppard alluded to the development of bad habits. He thinks Hachimura is more of a blank canvas for the coaching staff and that could work in their favor long-term.

Sheppard made a comparison for Hachimura that was interesting for several reasons.

"With [Raptors forward] Pascal Siakam, you see what happens when guys come to the game a little late and what he was able to do. It's not the same, but if you ask me of someone who's story his reminds me of, it could remind you of something like that," Sheppard said.

Siakam's name was invoked over and over during the pre-draft process but more often to draw a parallel for Sekou Doumbouya of France. Sheppard was more so comparing the development track for Hachimura than the playing style, but it holds some weight.

There have been some famous cases of late bloomers in NBA history. Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Joel Embiid reportedly didn't start playing basketball until high school.

Duncan may be a good example of avoiding bad habits, as he is considered one of the most fundamentally sound players of all time. Olajuwon might be the most skilled big man in NBA history, and Embiid has a chance to become an all-time great.

What gives the Wizards hope that Hachimura will reach his potential and someday enjoy breakout success like Siakam has is his work ethic. The Wizards did deep background research on Hachimura, including through discussions with his college coach, Mark Few of Gonzaga.

They believe they found something in Hachimura that other teams may have overlooked.

"The things that you hope for and that you're optimistic about, they seem to be there. So, we're excited about that," Sheppard said. "It's really up to Rui and how bad do you want to be good?"

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Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand donating $100M towards racial equality and social justice

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Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand donating $100M towards racial equality and social justice

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand are giving $100 million to organizations dedicated to promoting racial equality and social justice.

In a joint statement Friday on social media, Jordan and the Jordan Brand said money will be paid over 10 years with the goal of "ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education."

"Black lives matter," the statement said. "This isn't a controversial statement. Until the ingrained racism that allows our country's institutions to fail is completely eradicated, we will remain committed to protecting and improving the lives of black people."

RELATED ARTICLE: BEAL THANKS D.C. MAYOR FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER PLAZA AND MURAL ON 16TH STREET

Jordan, the 57-year-old former Chicago Bulls great, is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets. The Jordan Brand is a subsidiary of Nike, the shoe giant that earlier Friday committed $40 million over the next four years to support the black community.

Jordan also released a statement Monday on George Floyd and the killings of black people at the hands of police.

"I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry," Jordan said. "I see and feel everyone's pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough."

Floyd was in handcuffs when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Derek Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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Bradley Beal thanks D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for new Black Lives Matter Plaza, matching mural on 16th street

Bradley Beal thanks D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for new Black Lives Matter Plaza, matching mural on 16th street

Washingon, D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser had "Black Lives Matter" painted Friday on a street that leads up to the White House, an effort to honor those who have peacefully protested throughout the week following the death of George Floyd.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who has been active off and on social media in the fight against racial injustices, took to Instagram on Friday to thank Bowser for her act.

"There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city," Bowser said during a press conference Friday, via NBC News.

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Bowser posted a video to her own Instagram account on Friday, officially naming that section of 16th street 'Black Lives Matter Plaza.'

Earlier this week, the Wizards released a strong, unified statement on social media condemning social injustice, racism and police brutality. Multiple players, including Beal, reposted the statement on their respective Instagram story.

The message had four different statements:

"We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country."

"We will no longer accept the abuse of power from law enforcement."

"We will no longer accept ineffective government leaders who are tone-deaf, lack compassion or respect for communities of color."

"We will no longer shut up and dribble."

Beal's Instagram post on Friday should not come as a surprise to anyone. In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wizards guard John Wall explained that Beal was the one who led the charge regarding the team's statement.

"We got a group chat that we have with our team,” Wall said. "Brad [Beal] started off with, like, this is what he was going to post, so we all agreed to it. We all agreed to it. We felt like it was a powerful message. We wasn’t going to force the organization or anybody to join us; this is the players coming together, and the organization came and did their thing."

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