Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura said Monday he expects to be back on court to face the Phoenix Suns in the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament the following day.

The Japanese men's national basketball team star has been out of action since suffering a nasal fracture against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 22 and undergoing surgery two days later.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura speaks to reporters in Los Angeles on Dec. 4, 2023. (Kyodo)

Speaking to reporters after team practice, Hachimura said he was not ready to play Saturday against the Houston Rockets despite speculation that he might return for the game.

"I think I'm in good shape now, (but) the last game, I was not really in good shape," Hachimura said.

"It was right after the surgery. I couldn't really do anything the whole week. Me and the team decided I would try to get in shape and get ready for this game tomorrow."

The 203-centimeter forward said he will play in a custom-made mask to protect his nose.

The inaugural In-Season Tournament has seen all 30 NBA teams divided into groups of five before the top eight performers advanced to the knockout rounds. The semifinals and final will take place in Las Vegas through Saturday.

Hachimura said he enjoyed the new tournament format and looked forward to hosting a Suns team including Japan teammate Yuta Watanabe.

"I'm excited. I like the tournament feeling," he said. "We've got to get this one tomorrow and then go to Vegas."


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