WASHINGTON – Rui Hachimura had his down moments last Wednesday in Miami. The 22-year-old forward didn’t shoot well and flubbed fouling Heat center Bam Adebayo when the big man caught the ball on an inbounds pass during the last play of the game with the Washington Wizards up three.
But what Hachimura did next, in the wake of his mistake, is part of what made coach Scott Brooks call the Wizards’ 103-100 win “a step in the right direction” for Hachimura anyway. When Adebayo dished the ball to Heat sharpshooter Tyler Herro, Hachimura switched onto Herro and got a hand in his face without fouling before Herro sent a desperation shot clanking against the backboard.
“At that point, when we did not have a foul, he made the right decision by not fouling (Herro,)” Brooks said on a videoconference after, “just making him make a tough shot over.”
The move was a small but crucial save that helped prevent potential disaster – and was one of many ways Hachimura made an impact even when he wasn’t perfect.
The forward went 3 for 11 from the floor and had three turnovers against the Heat in his third subpar offensive game after returning from a two-week stint in the league’s coronavirus protocols, for which he missed three games.
Yet Hachimura also had a team-high nine rebounds and five assists. He contested two shots in the final minute, one against Herro and the other against a hard-charging Jimmy Butler.
“I missed a lot of shots, but defensively and then (rebounding), passing, I think was good,” Hachimura said. “I always play for the team to win, and (Wednesday) we had a great team win.”
Brooks has preached patience to Hachimura and Deni Avdija as the team’s young lottery picks work to regain their stamina and game feel after missing so much time.
Hachimura’s solid defensive performance Wednesday followed a strong offensive outing in Tuesday’s loss to Portland – he shot 10 for 12 from the field for 24 points.
Brooks reiterated just how difficult of a task Hachimura has had this year. Hachimura played his 60th career game Friday, scoring 12 points in a second straight bout against the Heat, and has faced unprecedented interruption to his young careers. Hachimura missed two weeks at the start of the season for pinkeye before he missed time because of the team’s coronavirus outbreak.
Last year, his rookie season, was broken up by injury, the leaguewide coronavirus pause and then concluded in the bizarre confines of the NBA bubble.
“I don’t put my expectation bar super high for them, because they’re supposed to just learn. Deni’s whole rookie year should be about learning,” Bradley Beal said Wednesday. “Granted, we’re throwing you into the fire, we want you to make an impact. … Rui’s going to make mistakes. And they’re just coming into their own … They’ve begun to accept that challenge on the defensive end, because they know teams are going to attack them.”
Hachimura’s offense is still ahead of his defense, but the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward from Gonzaga has dedicated time to learning his opponents more in his second year in the league.
Film study and general experience means Hachimura knows more of what to expect going up against Butler at the basket and Herro’s tendencies in setting up a 3.
He said Brooks’s message for him as he works back into full shape is to remain aggressive and communicate more.
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