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Rui Hachimura ready to live out his 'favorite moment as a kid' at All-Star weekend

Rui Hachimura ready to live out his 'favorite moment as a kid' at All-Star weekend

CHICAGO -- When Rui Hachimura gave up baseball to focus on basketball full-time in junior high school, he was all in. Like, all in.

Due to the time difference in Japan, he would skip school and stay home to watch All-Star weekend events in the morning. His parents didn't exactly sign off on it, but Hachimura wouldn't be told otherwise.

"They didn't like it," he told NBC Sports Washington. "But they knew basketball was my only thing. I loved to watch basketball, especially when I didn't have to go to school and stay home. I would watch by myself. That was like my favorite moment as a kid."

On Friday night in Chicago, Hachimura will become the first Japanese-born player to participate in All-Star weekend. He earned a spot on the World Team roster for the Rising Stars Challenge due to the fact he has been one of the best rookies in the NBA this season.

Now it's his turn to perform for fans at the annual showcase. And he knows there will be plenty of Japanese children watching, just like he did years ago.

"It means a lot, for sure. Right now, you can watch the NBA all over Japan. It's easier to see. A lot of kids are going to watch it and look at me. It's crazy," he said.

Hachimura, 21, has enjoyed a strong rookie year so far after being selected by the Wizards with the ninth overall pick in last June's NBA Draft. He's averaging 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 48.7 percent from the field.

Hachimura will play in the game alongside his teammate, Moe Wagner of Germany. They are the first Wizards representatives in the game since Bradley Beal in 2013. Beal and John Wall were the only Wizards to earn the honors from 2004 until this year.

Hachimura, though, will have an entirely different situation when it comes to media interest. There were 46 Japanese reporters credentialed for his introductory press conference following the draft last summer. Friday is expected to be a madhouse when he takes the podium for media day.

Hachimura has been under the media microscope since he was in middle school, ever since it was evident he had a chance to be the best Japanese basketball player of all-time.

"It's been getting bigger every year since I was in junior high school. I try to just get used to it and focus on what I have to do. I always think about how I just like to play basketball. I just focus on that," he said.

Hachimura has already represented Japan at just about every level of basketball, except for the All-Star stage. That changes this weekend.

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Jordan McRae on what it was like being in Detroit when teammate Christian Wood tested positive for coronavirus

Jordan McRae on what it was like being in Detroit when teammate Christian Wood tested positive for coronavirus

Detroit Pistons power forward Christian Wood was the third player in the NBA to be diagnosed with COVID-19 back on March 14. Thankfully, Wood has fully recovered from the illness as of March 25, but the time leading up to his positive test was crazy—just ask former Washington Wizard, now Piston, Jordan McRae.

"Me and Christian [Wood] actually went out to eat that night and he was fine, he was good," McRae told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "We had practice the next day, he was fine. Then before the [Sixers] game, he was like 'Yo, I don't really feel good, I might not play.'"

"We all gave him a hard time like, 'Yo, we have Joel Embiid tonight and now you out sick? You don't want to play.'"

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

The grief must've gotten to Wood because he decided to suit up and ended up having a career night vs. Philadelphia with 32 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. 

"The doctors gave him some medicine and stuff and he was cool," McRae continued. "I think he had 32 and 14, he played good."

"After the game, we got on the bus to leave the arena but they then made us all get off the bus and told us 'Rudy Gobert tested positive.' So we came home, all got tested, and they told us we had to be quarantined for 14 days."

All athletes had similar questions when they were told to self-quarantine for two weeks. For McRae, because his living arrangement was unique due to being freshly claimed off waivers by the Pistons on March 4, it was simple:

"'Can I go home?" McRae said. "I was in a hotel, it was nice but at the end of the day, it's still four walls. I'm going to be here for 14 days?" 

"They ended up getting me an apartment," McRae said. "But for 14 days I wound up buying an Xbox. I don't play [NBA] 2K but ended up playing 2k half of the time. It was tough. I played an 82 game season, the playoffs and the championship in three days."

This hiatus from basketball also has McRae participating in other uncharacteristic activities just to stay in shape and entertained. 

"I just bought a Peloton bike," McRae said. "I'm not a fan of exercise bikes and treadmills because I always play, but now I find myself doing things I don't normally do.

"I watch my highlights, I can tell you on some of my highlights what happens before it happens."

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How to watch Wizards' huge comeback win vs. Clippers, NBA 2K20 sim vs. Pelicans

How to watch Wizards' huge comeback win vs. Clippers, NBA 2K20 sim vs. Pelicans

It was a time when John Wall trade rumors were swirling, months before he would rupture his Achilles in an injury that's kept him sidelined ever since. 

The Wizards still managed to erase a 24-point deficit en route to a 125-118 win over the Clippers in Nov. 2018. Wall led Washington with 30 points and eight assists while Bradley Beal had 27 and seven of his own. Sure, it was a Clippers squad constructed pre-Kawhi Leonard and Paul George acquisitions, but it's a reair you have to watch, nonetheless. 

Before that, though, you're going to want to get your fix of the Wizards' 2020 schedule with an NBA 2K20 simulation against the Pelicans. Rookie Zion Williamson is a force to be reckoned with, and sports pundits all over were wondering if a possible postseason push could earn him the Rookie of the Year award. 

Still, the Wizards, even without Wall, have been on a tear in recent NBA 2K contests. 

Here's how to watch all the action. 

When:

Wedneday, April 1 at 7 PM ET

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms
  • Monumental Sports Network via its website www.monumentalsportsnetwork.com or via any of its available apps on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox.

 

Broadcast schedule

6:00 PM: NBA2K Simulation: Los Angeles Lakers @ Wizards  (R)

7:00 PM: NBA2K Simulation: New Orleans Pelicans @ Washington Wizards  (R)

8:00 PM: NBA Classics: Los Angeles Clippers @ Wizards (R) (November 20, 2018, Wizards comeback from a 24-point deficit in wild win)

Starting lineups

The nice part about this is we don't have to wait as long to know the starting lineups. Just don't tell the 2K computer. 

Wizards
PG - Shabazz Napier
SG - Bradley Beal
SF - Jerome Robinson
PF - Rui Hachimura
C - Thomas Bryant

Pelicans
PG - Lonzo Ball
SG - Jrue Holiday
SF - Brandon Ingram
PF - Zion Williamson
C - Derrick Favors

So if you're like us and desperately miss watching NBA basketball, tune into NBC Sports Washington on Wednesday night to get the closest thing to a live game. We'll get through this hiatus together. 

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