Hachimura, who authored a solid rookie season last year, averaging 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds, turned in another promising performance last week in the Wizards’ preseason debut at the Brooklyn Nets before missing the final two exhibitions with eye issues. He was diagnosed with bilateral epidemic keratoconjunctivitis Wednesday.
Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said during a videoconference Monday that Hachimura’s case is severe, with blurred vision and light sensitivity that kept him off the court for most of last week.
“I was hoping last week, thinking that it would clear up in two or three days, he could be back on the court, couple more days later he’d be back. But he has a severe case,” Brooks said. “It’s a long season. I know sometimes when you’re in the grind it doesn’t seem every game is so important and so critical, but he’s a young player, and he needed those reps and practice and training camp, those exhibition games. We’re going to have to figure it out without him until he comes back.”
The Wizards will probably fill Hachimura’s starting spot “by committee,” Brooks said, after rotating players at power forward Monday in practice. Brooks started backup center Moe Wagner at the four alongside Thomas Bryant in Thursday’s preseason game — an experiment that clogged Washington’s spacing on offense — then started Anthony Gill on Saturday to greater success.
Brooks prefers to start three-point specialist Davis Bertans on the bench, but the 6-foot-10 forward could be another option, as could 6-9 rookie wing Deni Avdija, who played alongside wing Isaac Bonga during an exhibition.
Hachimura will sit out for the second notable stretch of his young career. He missed seven weeks with a groin injury last season and came back to play just 16 games before the league paused because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Any blows to the Wizards’ depth carry outsize importance this season, when the team will play 72 games in a shortened period of time and any positive coronavirus tests could keep players out for days or weeks. No one else on the team has experienced eye issues, which Brooks credited to the team’s virus protocols.
“I’m sure early on he was [contagious], but give credit to everybody, I mean everybody in our building — we are diligent to a point it just seems like, man, we don’t even get close to one another,” Brooks said. “The hygiene and the social distance and the mask and the coaches, we do a pretty good job. Nobody has it. We’re pretty good with that.”