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Wizards will have a tough time replacing Thomas Bryant

Wizards will have a tough time replacing Thomas Bryant

WASHINGTON -- The injuries continue to pile up for the Washington Wizards and their latest is a big one.

Starting center Thomas Bryant, arguably their second-best player, will now be sidelined for at least three weeks after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot. With Moe Wagner out nursing a sprained left ankle and Ian Mahinmi down with an Achilles strain, that leaves the Wizards very thin at the center spot.

It has gotten so bad that head coach Scott Brooks opened his pregame press conference on Tuesday asking which members of the media were available to suit up for the Wizards against the Magic.

"Can you play?" Brooks asked.

The reality is that Brooks has no ideal direction to turn. He has 6-foot-8 forward Rui Hachimura in at center against the Magic alongside Davis Bertans at the four. 

It doesn't sound like Wagner will be out long, but the Wizards will have to get creative in the meantime. And even if Wagner does return for their next game on Thursday, they will have to make it work against Joel Embiid of the Sixers, who is arguably the best five-man in today's game.

"It's been a challenging season," Brooks said. 

Bryant, 22, is second on the Wizards in points per game (13.9) and first in rebounds (8.5) and blocks (1.0). He is also their primary screen-setter. Replacing him with the personnel the Wizards have will not be easy.

Hachimura, it appears, will get the first crack at playing center. Wagner, though, could start there when he returns. And Bertans, at 6-foot-10, has the height to play down low despite his perimeter-oriented game.

Other than that, the Wizards may have to do something far outside-the-box like play Admiral Schofield or Isaac Bonga at the five. They will have no choice but to go small.

Bryant first felt discomfort in Sunday's game against the Clippers, the Wizards say. And he will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Until then, the Wizards will have to get by without one of their most important players and with no ideal option to replace him.

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Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

WASHINGTON -- The long-awaited return of Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is getting closer, as he participated in a full practice on Saturday for the first time since suffering a groin injury back on Dec. 16.

Hachimura, 21, had no limitations, per head coach Scott Brooks. He went through all of their drills and full-contact scrimmages.

"He did well. He went through everything. That's another good day," Brooks said.

The final hurdle for Hachimura at this point involves getting into game shape. His conditioning is not close to midseason form after missing seven weeks of games.

Brooks said Hachimura definitely will not return before the end of the team's current road trip, which ends on Tuesday in Milwaukee. After that, however, it could be a matter of days.

 

The Wizards will return to Washington after playing the Bucks for a six-game homestand. It seems likely he is back by the time it's over.

The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura has had a strong rookie season so far, averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. The Wizards have gone 7-12 since he's been out.

Hachimura suffered the injury when he was inadvertently kicked between the legs by teammate Isaac Bonga. He required a minor procedure and was away from the team for weeks before slowly working his way back to basketball activities and then participating in practices.

Saturday was a big step in his recovery and it now puts the finish line into focus.

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Watch: We mic'd up Thomas Bryant when he cheered on Indiana in matchup vs. Maryland

Watch: We mic'd up Thomas Bryant when he cheered on Indiana in matchup vs. Maryland

When the Maryland Terps faced Indiana for the first time in Big Ten play this season in early January, one famous former Hoosiers player sat in the stands cheering his team on. Wizards center Thomas Bryant allowed NBC Sports Washington to follow him throughout the game, where he showed his trademark enthusiasm for his former team. 

"It feels great," he said when asked by NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes how it feels to be watching his alma mater. "It seems like yesterday I was just playing against Maryland myself."

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Unfortunately for Bryant, the Hoosiers lost that game. But they'll get another shot at the Terps on Sunday. 

But Bryant, who will have his own game to suit up for when the Wizards take on the Hawks, won't be there to cheer. But when he did have the chance - he was vocal. After all, he told Hughes, that's just the type of fan and teammate he is.

"No matter if I'm out there or not, I'm going to be on my brother's side," he said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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