- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2020

Rui Hachimura drove by Duncan Robinson, but as he went up for the layup, the Wizards rookie was blocked — twice. First, Robinson recovered in time to get his hand on the ball, and then Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo came crashing in for the second swat.

As the Heat raced back in transition, Hachimura tossed up his hands.

It was that kind of night for the 22-year-old, the latest in a rough stretch for the Japanese native.

Over the last two games, Hachimura has gone 0-of-14 from the field. He missed all eight attempts in Sunday’s 100-89 loss to the Miami Heat. In March, Hachimura is shooting just 33.3%, his worst month so far.

Forty games into his career, Hachimura appears to have hit the classic rookie wall. He acknowledged as much after the loss.

“Schedule-wise it’s been hard, especially this month,” Hachimura said. “We started with the west coast trip and played like four games in five days, then we came back and we played right away. It’s been tough but it is what it is.”

The concept of a rookie wall itself is highly debated. Is it a myth? Is it real? The theory goes like this: Since the NBA’s season is twice as long compared to college, there is a point of the schedule when rookies slow down and start to struggle on the court.

“We always say the rookie wall (happens) after All-Star (break),” guard Bradley Beal said.

Lately, Hachimura hasn’t had a “good feel” for the game offensively, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. Most of Hachimura’s shot attempts have come inside the paint, but the rookie has either rushed or forced his shot. In Friday’s win against the Atlanta Hawks, for instance, Hachimura botched an open look near the basket after he created enough space on a backdoor cut.

Asked about what he thinks is wrong, Hachimura said he’s “thinking too much.”

“I’ve just got to play,” Hachimura said. “Everybody’s saying do this, do that. I’ve got to play it myself. How I’ve been playing, I think I’m just… People have been saying a lot of things.”

As a rookie, Hachimura has welcomed feedback. Earlier in the season, when he missed six weeks with a groin injury, Hachimura often met with coaches to discuss the game, even when he couldn’t contribute on the court.

Surprisingly, Hachimura didn’t struggle when he returned from injury. Perhaps his best attribute this season has been his consistency, emerging as a go-to option next to Beal. Hachimura is the Wizards’ third-leading scorer with 13.4 points per game, which ranks sixth among rookies.

But now, defenses have a better understanding of what Hachimura likes to do.

“People are going to realize they have film on him now,” Beal said. “He just needs to continue to get better and continue to find ways to impact the game. There’s much more he can do than just score the ball.”

If there is an encouraging sign for the Wizards during this period, it’s that the rookie still has put in the effort. Hachimura secured a critical rebound late against the Hawks that helped stave off an Atlanta comeback.

Brooks, though, said he sees Hachimura “get down on himself” after misses, as players tend to do. But Brooks expressed confidence that Hachimura’s stretch will be a minor footnote by the end of the season.

“He’ll bust out and we’ll look at this as part of his growth and part of his learning experience to get better,” Brooks said. “He will. But still, for his sake, it’s hard. … In the big picture, he’s going to be just fine.”

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