What Wizards players look forward to doing in Japan originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
WASHINGTON -- As the Wizards head to Japan for two showcase preseason games against the defending-champion Warriors, they have a unique advantage when it comes to enjoying their time off the court with Rui Hachimura on the roster. He's from Japan, he's an NBA player and he knows what NBA players like to do. Need a restaurant recommendation or a place to go shopping; just ask Rui.
Hachimura says that ideally the team would have more time to spend there, but he has a few ideas for his teammates. And the one experience he wants them to get more than anything else costs nothing at all.
"I just want them to walk around the city because there are a lot of people in Japan walking around. One thing when I was in Japan that I always remember, people are very short. That's one thing. If you are walking around, the views are different for tall people. That's one thing I want them to experience," Hachimura said.
That may be a more novel experience for some than it will be for others. Hachimura, for instance, is 6-foot-8. He could walk around anywhere in the world and have no trouble seeing down the block. That is especially the case for Kristaps Porzingis, who at 7-foot-3 is one of the tallest players in NBA history.
Monte Morris, though, can see what it's like. He's only 6-foot-2. Even Bradley Beal, at 6-foot-3, could get a fresh perspective.
Beal, however, has been to Japan before. He is among a few members of the Wizards who are going for the second time. He remembers going to a samurai demonstration and also a sumo wrestling match. He wants to see sumo again, calling it possibly the most fun sporting event he's ever attended.
Beal hopes to try some sushi on this trip, as last time he visited he was younger and not quite as adventurous.
"I'm a little bit more out of my shell now," he said.
Food was a common subject when players and other members of the organization were asked about their hopes for the trip. Hachimura has a team dinner planned in the heart of Tokyo, so his teammates can experience authentic Japanese food in a lively environment representative of the culture at large.
"I'm a big fan of the cuisine, so I'm looking forward to that," Unseld Jr. said.
Hachimura says there is one dish he wants everyone to try.
"My favorite food is called sukiyaki. It's like a hotpot. It's like a mix of soy sauce and all that kind of stuff. They put beef and vegetables [in it]. You actually eat it with raw eggs. I want them to try that. I'm having a dinner one day, so we're going to have that," he said.
Shopping will also be a goal of many Wizards players. They will have plenty of responsibilities between practices, two games and scheduled events, so it may not be easy.
Kyle Kuzma, though, plans to find a way.
"I'm gonna make time," he said.
In addition to the off-court fun, the Wizards will have to keep their affairs in order on the court given it is an important time of the year. The team will do everything they can to make sure they don't get thrown off track in the leadup to their regular season opener on Oct. 19 in Indiana.
Unseld Jr. says he will play the team's regulars quite a bit in the first two preseason games to develop some chemistry amid a new-look rotation. They also have some fans to put on a show for.
Thanks in large part to Hachimura, the Wizards are a big deal in Japan and it's not just him. Beal, Kuzma and others now have larger followings in Japan than they otherwise would.
The same goes for Unseld Jr., whose words Japanese fans hang on to for updates about Hachimura. Unseld Jr. may find some fans of his own on this trip.
"Well, that seems a little odd, but I appreciate it," he joked.
Naturally, a lot of the focus is going to be on Hachimura as the face of Japanese basketball. He will likely have swaths of fans following him everywhere. He also hopes to spend plenty of time with his family, as he doesn't get to return home often.
When it comes to the trip itself, he's a bit of an expert and the Wizards plan to lean on him for pointers. Like, how to deal with the 14-hour flight and the time change.
His biggest piece of advice?
"You've just gotta sleep," he said.