Rui Hachimura made his NBA season debut for the Washington Wizards on Sunday, coming off the bench in a 102-100 win over the Orlando Magic.
The Japan national team star missed 39 regular season games after the Wizards allowed him to sit out training camp for personal reasons. He had been gradually ramping up toward his NBA return since arriving in Washington in October.
Hachimura checked into the game at Orlando’s Amway Center midway through the first quarter and opened his account from the free throw line before registering his first field goal on a baseline dunk. He finished with six points and three rebounds in 14 minutes of action.
Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards dunks the ball during a game against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 9, 2022 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. (Copyright 2022 NBAE)(NBAE/Getty/Kyodo)
“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” said Hachimura, who rejoins a Wizards team that added several new players in the offseason. “I’m so happy to be back on the court and playing with these guys. I missed the feeling.”
The Toyama Prefecture native did not elaborate on the reasons for his absence during his postgame press conference but indicated he needed time away from the game following an exhausting schedule including last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, where he was a flag-bearer for Japan.
Washington head coach Wes Unseld Jr. praised Hachimura for his comeback performance, saying the 23-year-old forward gave the team an added dimension with “his size (and) his ability to play off the bounce.”
“I thought he did great,” Unseld said. “He was aggressive. I think he gives you that physicality that we lack at times.”
Kyle Kuzma led the way with 27 points and 22 rebounds for the Wizards, who are ninth in the Eastern Conference standings with 20 wins and 20 losses.
Basketball: Yuta Watanabe logs personal-high 26 points, 13 rebounds in NBA
Basketball: Watanabe makes home debut for Raptors in loss to Celtics
Basketball: Hachimura, Watanabe to miss season-opening head-to-head