Ed Odeven, for JAPAN Forward

Rui Hachimura and the Washington Wizards haven’t played a game since a 122-115 victory over the New York Knicks on March 10.

The NBA shutdown began the next day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has had a lot of time to think about individual players’ performances and the team’s 64 games.

In a rebuilding season, Washington (24-40) is focused on laying its foundation for the future, with Hachimura a big part of those plans.

Whether the Wizards will be able to play 18 more games to complete a normal season’s schedule — or a scaled-down version — remains to be seen. That said, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and league officials still hope to be able to resume play in the coming weeks and crown a playoff champion. In and of itself, the logistics of getting practices up and running presents several obstacles for teams due to the coronavirus and physical distancing protocols. (Individual workouts are the first step.)

The Wizards, ninth in the Eastern Conference, wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs based on current results. But the 22-year-old Hachimura, a rookie, has demonstrated to Wizards management, including general manager Tommy Sheppard, that he has a bright future in the NBA.

“Rui had a great year,” Brooks said on a recent video conference call with Wizards radio play-by-play broadcaster Dave Johnson. “I mean, coming in as a rookie and being as consistent as he’s been.”

“We started the season in training camp and he wasn’t the starter [at power forward]. It was open…but he performed, and he fought for that spot, and he got that spot with his work and his play in practice and exhibition [games]. And he’s had a great year,” he continued.

The 203-cm Toyama native has appeared in 41 games (all starts), averaging 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.2 blocks. The Gonzaga University alum scored a season-high 30 points last December 1 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Hachimura has made 47.8% of his shots from the field, while connecting on 27.4% from 3-point range (and attempting 1.8 per game).

On the Facebook/Zoom video, which ran for around 34 minutes, Johnson read to Brooks questions submitted by the public.

Asked about Hachimura, Brooks admitted that Sheppard and the Wizards front office did their homework before deciding to select him with the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft last June.

The fourth-year bench boss recalled Sheppard’s decision-making process.

“We didn’t bring Rui in [for a pre-draft workout],” Brooks said in late April. “But he told me, ‘We don’t need to see Rui.’”

Why not?

“We’ve seen him like a thousand times at practice and in games,” Brooks said, recounting Sheppard’s reasoning. “That’s why we picked him ninth. What a great pick that was.”

By - Ben K.