Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura told the media Tuesday he expects an improved showing from the team in his second NBA season, with improved health and the return of some star power to be key to their success.
Hachimura said he is looking forward to playing with former All-Star point guard John Wall, who is set to return from a nearly two-year absence due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, and team linchpin Bradley Beal, who sat out last season's bubble restart in Orlando, Florida, with a shoulder injury.
"It's going to be a great year. John's coming back, 'DB' is coming back and Brad," Hachimura said, singling out his sharp-shooting Latvian teammate Davis Bertans who signed a new contract with the team in the offseason.
Wall's return promises to be a challenge as reintegrating a ball-dominant star into a team that has learned to live without him brings some uncertainty. Hachimura, however, believes it will be nothing but positive.
"(Playing with Wall) is going to be a great fit for me. I watched a lot of film of John this offseason. He is one of the best point guards in the league, so it is going to be fun to play with him," he said.
"Last year we didn't make the playoffs but I feel like this year we'll most likely make the playoffs...My second year is going to be fun. I learned a lot of things, especially in the bubble, and I worked out this offseason pretty good. I'm so excited," he said.
The NBA abruptly shut down last season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. In June, it approved a plan to resume the season in isolation at Disney World, inviting 22 of the league's 30 teams that were within six games of a playoff spot when the season was suspended.
"It was my first year and this whole thing (coronavirus pandemic) happened, the season stopped, restarted, then the bubble. It was a good experience, I started to think differently about basketball," Hachimura said.
The 22-year-old, who was born to a Japanese mother and Beninese father, returned to Japan after the season ended in mid-August and has worked with a physical trainer to improve on his core strength, putting on 5 kilograms in the process.
He said the team could initially struggle with its chemistry in the preseason opener against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 13, but he believes their off-floor rapport can eventually translate to wins on it.
He said the experience garnered in his rookie season will be invaluable in the next, especially because he learned about dealing with injury after he was forced to miss 23 games with a groin injury that required a minor surgical procedure.
"Every day was new in my first year. I watched a lot of film, talked to coaches and worked on my threes this offseason. I didn't change my shooting form but I'm just more comfortable," he said.
The Wizards will begin individual workouts midweek under the NBA's coronavirus protocols ahead of the season's Dec. 22 start.