Rui Hachimura aims to finish rookie NBA season on solid note

Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura said Friday he aims to finish off his rookie season on a solid note after the NBA season resumes at the end of this month following the novel coronavirus-necessitated hiatus.

The 2019-2020 NBA season, which has been suspended since March, will restart with 22 teams playing eight games each at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Sixteen teams will qualify for the playoffs.

“We still have a shot at the playoffs. We want to play the best eight games possible,” Hachimura said in an interview posted on the team’s Twitter account.

“The season (suspension) has been unfortunate. But I personally want to finish off my rookie season on a solid note and take it to the next level.”

The Wizards are ninth in the Eastern Conference, sitting 5-1/2 games behind eighth-place Orlando Magic for the final playoff spot. The team will face the Phoenix Suns on July 31.

Hachimura, the first player from Japan to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, appeared in 41 games until the season was suspended due to the virus outbreak. The 22-year-old averaged 13.4 points and six rebounds per game.

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During the suspension, Hachimura said he gained about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) by training with weights. He also revealed he worked on his three-point shots, mid-range shots and ball-handling at the gym, and watched and studied past games with his coaches and teammates via videoconferencing app Zoom.

“I’ve been told I got bigger. I was already looking to spend time to work on my body. So I feel like despite the hiatus, I’ve been able to make the most of my time,” he said.

The NBA suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus. The regular season was originally scheduled to finish in April.

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