Rui Hachimura

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wright, Hachimura, Gafford

The Wizards are at a critical point in their season and they may have to navigate it without Bradley Beal, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Sunday’s loss to the Lakers was Washington’s sixth in its last seven games, and a challenging schedule looms for the rest of the month. There is concern about the status of Beal, who suffered a strained hamstring while diving for a ball midway through the first quarter and didn’t return to the game. He will undergo testing today to determine the extent of the injury.

“First of all, hopefully, he doesn’t have to miss that many games,” Corey Kispert said. “I’m praying for Brad, absolutely. He’s the heart and soul of our team. We need him on the floor. But whether it’s a good thing or not, we’ve experienced playing without Brad last year. A lot of guys on this team did that. We know exactly what to do, just kind of a mindset change and a little bit of a style change. But we need (Beal) on the floor. We want him out there.”

Beal, a three-time All-Star, is scoring more efficiently this season, shooting a career-best 52.2% from the field and 35.2% from three-point range. Robbins notes that the Wizards were able to go 4-2 when Beal was in the health and safety protocols earlier this season, with Kyle Kuzma taking on more of a facilitating role.

There’s more from Washington:

  • Free agent addition Delon Wright, who has been sidelined since suffering a Grade 2 hamstring strain in the fourth game of the season, may be able to return this week, Robbins adds. Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. told reporters that Rui Hachimura is still “day to day” after missing eight games with a bone bruise in his right ankle.
  • Two-way guard Devon Dotson and lottery pick Johnny Davis both entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols while in the G League, Robbins tweets.
  • Daniel Gafford relied on support from his wife and his friends while seeing limited playing time in November, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Gafford scored a season-high 20 points Sunday after posting season-best marks with 12 rebounds and six blocks in Friday’s game. “Take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay,” Gafford said. “You might have a bad night this night, but you can come back the next night and you can prove that that wasn’t you. Just be better than the day before. In our bathroom, me and my wife, we have sticky notes of motivational things that we’ve said to each other over the times. Every morning I look at that and it helps me out a lot. I actually take the time out to look at that. So, really just finding ways to clear out my mental.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Porzingis, Gafford, Hachimura

Appearing on the No Chill with Gilbert Arenas podcast, Wizards star Bradley Beal was asked by Arenas’ co-host Josiah Johnson about why he decided to sign a long-term contract to remain in D.C. this past summer. Beal responded by explaining that he appreciates the influence he has earned within the organization and believes in the talent on the roster.

“Not everybody gives you a voice in the organization. I have a voice here,” Beal said (hat tip to Paul Terrazzano Jr. of TalkBasket). “I never had a chance to fully play a year with (Kristaps Porzingis). That enticed me. He’s probably the best big I’ve played with. I like (Kyle Kuzma)’s ability to be able to spread his wings a little bit more, develop into the player that we think he can be. And then I think I like the young core that we were developing. Rui (Hachimura) is really good, had an awesome summer. Deni (Avdija)‘s just gonna continue to get better. And then Corey (Kispert)‘s a knockdown shooter, who is a pro’s pro.

“We still need to get better. I’m not sitting here saying, ‘We’re gonna hold up the Larry (O’Brien trophy). We’re going to beat Milwaukee (in the playoffs) tomorrow.’ No. But to have the pieces we have, we have enough to know that we can compete on a nightly basis with no BS. We know that we got a job, everybody’s able to be a star in their role, and we can go do that.”

It would have been hard for Beal to turn down the Wizards’ five-year, $251MM+ offer, which included a no-trade clause, in any scenario. But the star guard admitted that he didn’t actually have a ton of viable alternatives on the free agent market, alluding to the fact that many contending teams were in the tax, or at least well over the cap. The teams operating with cap space this summer were virtually all retooling or rebuilding clubs.

“On the flip side of it, the business side of it. There were no teams in the market, free agency-wise. I’m just being frank,” Beal said. “There was nowhere else for me to go where I can be like, ‘Oh, I can go win.’ It was teams that strategically wasn’t what I wanted. So realistically, I won’t say my hand was forced, but this was my best decision and best option on the table at the time.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • While you could gripe about some of his poorly timed late-game turnovers, Beal is otherwise off to a strong start in the first season of his mega-deal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes observes, Beal’s current streak of 11 consecutive 20-point games is already better than any run he had last season, and his shooting percentages (.520 FG%, .352 3PT%) have rebounded in a major way after a down year in 2021/22 (.451 FG%, .300 3PT%).
  • As Hughes notes in another story for NBC Sports Washington, Unseld used centers Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford together in the frontcourt on Friday for the first time all season. The move, an attempt to counter the impact that Charlotte’s duo of Mason Plumlee and Nick Richards was having on the boards and in the paint, was a success, with the Wizards outscoring the Hornets by 18 points during Porzingis’ and Gafford’s 12 minutes together. According to Hughes, the combination looks like an “in case of emergency” option for Unseld, but it could be worth trying more, given its effectiveness on Friday.
  • Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Friday that there’s no real timeline for Rui Hachimura‘s return from a bone bruise in his right ankle, referring to the fourth-year forward as “week-to-week,” according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Hachimura has missed the Wizards’ last seven games.

Wizards Among Potential Suitors For Jae Crowder

The Wizards appear to be among the trade suitors for Suns forward Jae Crowder, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest Hoop Collective podcast. Crowder has sat out the entire 2022/23 season as Phoenix has looked to move him, and Washington is in the market for a three-and-D type player.

“There’s been some chatter about them looking at a guy like Jae Crowder,” Windhorst said of the Wizards (hat tip to RealGM). “I’m pretty confident there’s been some discussions between the Wizards and Suns. We’ve been talking about Jae Crowder now for about two months. It’s obvious it’s a hard trade to pull off. The Wizards have a bunch of guys who make decent salaries on their roster that they can use in trades.”

A number of Eastern Conference playoff contenders have already been linked to Crowder, with the Heat, Hawks, and Bucks among the teams said to have interest. There was a sense a couple weeks ago that Phoenix might be on the verge of completing a deal involving the 32-year-old, but nothing has come of those rumors to date.

The Suns are one of the NBA’s best teams and will be looking for win-now pieces – rather than draft picks or prospects – in any Crowder trade, which has made it challenging for them to make a straight-up trade with another contending club. They’ve reportedly explored multi-team scenarios in an effort to get the sort of player(s) they’re targeting.

According to Windhorst, Phoenix would like to acquire a power forward in a Crowder trade. A previous report indicated the Suns have interest in Kyle Kuzma, but the Wizards are presumably looking to supplement Kuzma in their frontcourt rather than give him up, given the year he’s having. Former lottery picks Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija could be trade candidates, as Windhorst observes.

“What Phoenix has been looking for in return for Jae Crowder is a power forward,” Windhorst said. “So you can look at the (Wizards’) roster and you can identify that maybe Hachimura would be a guy. But they haven’t made the deal yet, so there hasn’t been a connection there.

“… To be honest with you, if I was Phoenix – now again, this is me speaking, this is not what I’ve heard, to be clear – I’d be interested in Avdija. I am interested in what he can do defensively. But I haven’t heard that. I’ve just heard that those two sides have talked.”

Crowder ($10.18MM) and Hachimura ($6.26MM) are on expiring contracts, while Avdija ($4.92MM) has one more year left on his rookie deal after this one.

Injury Notes: Stewart, Butler, Clips, Simmons, Hachimura

Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart will likely return on Tuesday night after missing the last seven games with a sprained toe, tweets James L. Edwards of The Athletic. He’s currently listed as questionable.

Stewart was the starting center for Detroit’s first 15 games and is averaging 12.0 points and 9.3 rebounds. His return is expected to give the Pistons more flexibility to experiment with two big men on the court, since Stewart has shown the ability to stretch the floor a little.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who is not yet with the team in Boston, is expected to miss a seventh consecutive game on Wednesday due to right knee soreness, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. According to Chiang, the hope is that Butler will be able to play on Friday in Miami’s second matchup with the Celtics this week.
  • Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard (ankle) and Paul George (hamstring) have been ruled out for Tuesday’s game in Portland, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. According to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link),  Leonard didn’t travel with the team and won’t be in Utah on Wednesday for the second half of a back-to-back either.
  • Nets swingman Ben Simmons left Monday’s win over Orlando early due to left knee soreness, as Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. Simmons, who missed five games earlier in the season due to soreness in that same knee, has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game game vs. Washington, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link). It’s unclear if he might miss more time beyond that.
  • The Wizards announced today in a press release that Rui Hachimura has been diagnosed with a bone bruise in his sore right ankle, which has already cost him the last four games. According to the team, Hachimura will remain sidelined on Wednesday and his status beyond that “will be determined by his clinical evolution.”

Southeast Notes: Butler, Morris, Wizards, Vaillancourt

Jimmy Butler could rejoin the Heat during their current road trip, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Coach Erik Spoeltra left that possibility open, indicating that Butler is working out in Miami. Butler, who has been dealing with right knee soreness, has only appeared in 13 games this season and has been sidelined since Nov. 16.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Monte Morris was back in action for the Wizards on Sunday after the point guard missed the last three games because of right ankle soreness, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. However, lottery pick Johnny Davis (right groin soreness), Rui Hachimura (right ankle soreness) and Kyle Kuzma (lower back pain) were inactive.
  • Injuries have created havoc for the Wizards’ rotation and weakened their bench, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.  The Wizards’ second unit is 20th in net rating (-1.2) and 26th in plus/minus (-3.3). The reserves rank 25th offensively (108.6), compared to ninth defensively (109.8).
  • Former Hornets broadcaster Gerry Vaillancourt has passed away, according to a team statement tweeted by the P.R. department. He was a radio and TV broadcaster for the team from 1990-2002. The cause of death was a heart condition that Vaillancourt, 72, was diagnosed with 25 years ago, according to Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.

Wizards Notes: Kuzma, Hachimura, Beal, Porzingis, Goodwin

The Wizards played perhaps their best game of the season on Thursday night vs. Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, winning 113-105 despite missing stars Bradley Beal (health and safety protocols) and Kristaps Porzingis (left groin strain).

The team’s success on offense could largely be attributed to Kyle Kuzma, who was the go-to scoring and play-making option with Beal and Porzingis unavailable. Kuzma led all scorers with 36 points on 14-of-26 shooting and also grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists, playing a role similar to the one Doncic has in Dallas. Kuzma said after the game that he enjoys being a primary ball-handler, though he doesn’t feel the need to match Doncic’s league-high 39.1% usage rate.

“No question I would love to do that, 100%,” Kuzma said, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I love challenges. Maybe not (39.1%), that’s a little aggressive. I don’t think you can win NBA championships of that nature with that. That’s a lot. But I have that type of ability to where I can make others better, I can score, I can do a lot of different things.”

With a $13MM player option for 2023/24, Kuzma has the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in July, so this is a big year for him. He said on Thursday that he’s trying not to think about that, however.

“I just try to live in the moment. I mean, it’s cliche but I’ve done a lot of soul-searching this summer and I do a lot of meditating and whatever is for me in life is for me. It’s going to come eventually. I’m not tripping,” Kuzma said. “… Money, basketball, the success; it’s going to come. I think I learned that my first go-around with my first contract and I’m just in the moment and I’m just hooping.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Besides Kuzma, Rui Hachimura was also a standout in Thursday’s win, racking up 23 points and playing good defense. As Josh Robbins of The Athletic notes, both Kuzma and Hachimura will be eligible for free agency next summer, raising the question of whether the team will retain both forwards or ultimately have to choose between one or the other. Kuzma could be a popular trade target this season for teams in need of frontcourt scoring, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets.
  • Beal and Porzingis are both considered day-to-day, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post, who notes that Beal first tested positive for COVID-19 and that head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said the guard’s symptoms have subsided “quite a bit.”
  • Promoted from an Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way deal at the end of the preseason, guard Jordan Goodwin is making an impact for the Wizards in the early part of the 2022/23 season. He scored a career-high 17 points on Monday and has been at least a plus-10 and has registered five or more assists in each of the last three games. Wallace at The Washington Post and Robbins at The Athletic both took a closer look this week at what Goodwin is bringing to the team.

Southeast Notes: Banchero, Bol, Hachimura, Cain, Time Change

Top pick Paolo Banchero is off to a terrific start for the Magic but he might miss a game for the first time on Wednesday. He’s questionable to play against Dallas due to a left ankle sprain, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel tweets.

Banchero is averaging 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game for the 2-9 Magic, who already have a handful of players out due to injuries.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Bol Bol has emerged as a candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player award, Josh Cohen of the team’s website writes. The 22-year-old big man played in just 14 games for Denver last season but has seen action in all of the Magic‘s games this season, including six starts. He’s averaging 11.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per night. “I think there’s so much more that he can show, but the one thing that I really appreciate about him and what he’s done is he’s just accepted whatever we are asking him to do, and he does it willingly,” head coach Jamahl Mosley said. Bol, acquired from Boston last season, is on a two-year contract but his $2.2MM salary for next season is not guaranteed.
  • Rui Hachimura has looked more comfortable coming off the bench this season, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards forward contributed 16 points in 26 minutes against Charlotte on Monday. For the season, he’s shooting 46.2% from the field. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer if the team extends a qualifying offer.
  • Miami rookie Jamal Cain is on a tw0-way contract and he will have to get used to bouncing back and forth between the NBA and G League, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel details. The Heat‘s G League team is in Sioux Falls. “It tests you mentally,” Caleb Martin said. “You might be going down and playing 30-plus minutes and you might be coming up and watching the whole game. It’s just a good way to keep your mind ready.”
  • Due to tropical storm Nicole, the Magic-Mavericks game on Wednesday has been moved up to 5:30 p.m. ET, the Magic’s PR department tweets.

Southeast Notes: Bouknight, Magic, Banchero, Wizards

Hornets guard James Bouknight, who was arrested over the weekend for driving while impaired, was found unconscious in his car in a parking deck, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, via a WSOC TV report.

Police records state that Bouknight’s car was running and in drive when he was found, and the 22-year-old was holding a handgun. Officers attempted to wake him up using airhorns, a PA system, and lights, and when he eventually did come to, Bouknight allegedly seemed confused and refused to comply with officers, crashing into two patrol cars before eventually getting out of the car and being taken into custody.

Bouknight issued an apology to the Hornets and his teammates when he returned to practice earlier this week, per Kallie Cox and Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

“Honestly, I just wanted to apologize for being a distraction before the start of the season, for my teammates and for what we’ve got going on,” said Bouknight, who went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes during the team’s regular season opener in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • It may not be realistic to expect the Magic to make the playoffs this year, but the team at least needs to show real signs of progress to consider the 2022/23 season a success, argues Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s been asked many times this offseason — ‘What’s next?'” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “I think this season is going to be a continuum from last season, but with that we want to start putting in what winning looks like — fewer mistakes, team orientation, being tied on a string defensively, elevating our standard as our team grows up so our players understand what winning is about.”
  • The Magic didn’t pick up a win in their season opener on Wednesday, but they had to be encouraged by the debut of No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, who racked up 27 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in Detroit. As Jamal Collier of ESPN writes, even though he said he felt like he “left a lot of points on the board,” Banchero is the first NBA rookie to post a 25-5-5 line in his debut since LeBron James in 2003.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington takes a look at what we learned about the Wizards‘ rotation based on their first game of the season. Notably, Delon Wright and Will Barton were part of the club’s closing lineup, Rui Hachimura was the first player off the bench, and rookie guard Johnny Davis was a DNP-CD.

Wizards Notes: Avdija, Beal, Young Players, Bench, Mediocrity

Deni Avdija earned the nod to start at small forward for the Wizards in their season opener at Indiana, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes writes, the news is somewhat surprising because Avdija suffered a groin injury last month playing for Israel during EuroBasket, causing him to miss all four of the Wizards’ preseason games.

The 6’9″ Avdija provides more size to balance the small backcourt of Monte Morris and Bradley Beal and is a much better defender than Will Barton, which gave him a leg up for the starting job, per Hughes.

Unfortunately, the third-year forward suffered a sprained right ankle during the contest, but X-rays were negative and it’s considered to be “nothing serious,” a source tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The Wizards officially listed him as questionable to return, with Anthony Gill starting in his place at halftime, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter links).

2022/23 is a big season for Avdija, as he’s eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer after the Wizards exercised their fourth-year team option on his rookie contract for ’23/24. The 21-year-old former ninth overall pick averaged 7.6 points and 5.1 rebounds over his first two NBA seasons.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • In an exclusive, in-depth interview with Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Beal said winning is his primary focus going forward. “I’ve been an All-Star, I’ve been an All-NBA guy, I’ve scored 30-plus points in back-to-back years,” he said. “What individual goals am I really after, right? Those would be great. Those come with winning. It doesn’t make sense to score 30 a game and get snubbed to be an All-Star because you’re not winning. So if we win games, those little accolades take care of themselves. But I just want to win. I want to be able to get my team to the playoffs, win a series, get to the next series, win a series, get to the conference finals, win that series, get to the finals and hopefully win that.”
  • Beal also recently shared his thoughts on the team’s young players, Hughes writes in another story for NBC Sports Washington. The star guard was particularly pleased with forward Rui Hachimura, who will be a restricted free agent in 2023 after failing to reach a rookie scale extension. “Rui’s been spectacular all preseason and all summer. I think the work that he’s put in is starting to really show pretty often,” Beal said.
  • The Wizards’ second unit has real upside in ’22/23, according to Hughes. Headlined by Barton, Hachimura, Delon Wright and Daniel Gafford, the bench combined to score 43 points in the 114-107 victory over the Pacers.
  • Can the Wizards break out of their cycle of mediocrity? Wallace ponders that question in a piece for The Washington Post, noting that the team has drafted between ninth and 15th since 2018, which is arguably the worst place to be in the NBA — not bad enough to land a top pick, but not good enough to be relevant.

No Extensions For Grant Williams, Cam Johnson, Others

Several notable fourth-year NBA players who were eligible for rookie scale contract extension agreements did not come to terms with their current clubs, and will now enter restricted free agency next summer with the extension deadline having passed.

Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN reports (via Twitter) that newly-promoted Suns starting power forward Cameron Johnson, Hornets forward P.J. Washington, and Celtics forward Grant Williams all failed to reach extension deals with their respective clubs.

With former Phoenix starting four Jae Crowder demanding his way out of town, it would have perhaps behooved the Suns to lock up Johnson to a long-term deal, but the team’s ownership situation could have made figuring out an agreement difficult. Williams had an erratic postseason for Boston during the team’s Finals run. Washington could get some additional run this season with the availability of forward Miles Bridges up in the air.

A source informs Christian Clark of (Twitter link) that Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes did not ultimately reach an agreement on a contract extension with New Orleans. Clark suggested that Hayes and his team would most likely resume negotiations when the big man reaches restricted free agency next summer, so it appears New Orleans does hope to keep him aboard.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets that Sixers swingman Matisse Thybulle similarly did not agree to an extension with Philadelphia, and is now set to reach restricted free agency in the summer of 2023. Thybulle is a terrific perimeter defender, but his offensive limitations impede his value.

Even though Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard and head coach Wes Unseld Jr. gave him positive preseason performance reviews, forward Rui Hachimura also will now enter restricted free agency in the 2023 offseason, reports Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link).

Knicks forward Cam Reddish, the tenth pick in the 2019 draft, did not get an extension from New York, his second NBA team, The Athletic’s Fred Katz reports (via Twitter). Katz notes that an agreement was not anticipated. Reddish struggled to carve out rotation minutes when the Hawks traded him to the Knicks, even though the team was clearly lottery-bound near the end of the 2021/22 season.

Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). reports that, in another anticipated move, combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker did not reach an extension agreement with the Jazz.

Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes that the Bulls also opted to not extend reserve guard Coby White, the seventh pick in the 2019 draft. Schaefer notes that, though Chicago considered trade offers for the 22-year-old out of UNC, the team eventually decided to not move him.

White will compete for minutes in a crowded backcourt that includes starting point guard Ayo Dosunmu and starting shooting guard Zach LaVine, plus reserves Alex Caruso and Goran Dragic. If Lonzo Ball returns from a recent knee surgery, he would supplant Dosunmu in the starting lineup, and further dilute White’s minutes load.

Here’s the full list of players eligible for rookie scale extensions who didn’t sign new deals before Monday’s 5:00 pm CT deadline:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Jazz)
  • Darius Bazley (Thunder)
  • Goga Bitadze (Pacers)
  • Rui Hachimura (Wizards)
  • Jaxson Hayes (Pelicans)
  • Cameron Johnson (Suns)
  • Romeo Langford (Spurs)
  • Cam Reddish (Knicks)
  • Matisse Thybulle (Sixers)
  • P.J. Washington (Hornets)
  • Coby White (Bulls)
  • Grant Williams (Celtics)
  • Dylan Windler (Cavaliers)

Extension-eligible veterans on expiring contracts remain eligible to sign new contracts throughout the season, while extension-eligible vets with multiple years left on their contracts can extend their deals up until 10:59 pm CT tonight.

Though the roster deadline has passed and every team is in compliance, that doesn’t mean there will be no additional moves tonight and tomorrow before the games begin. That said, in general, team rosters are set with the 2022/23 season set to tip off on Tuesday.

Luke Adams contributed to this report.