The 2022 NBA preseason starts early for the Wizards. They’re not doing the typical slow ramp-up to the season with a few preseason games.
The team landed early this morning in Tokyo for a five-day stint headlined by a pair of exhibition games against the defending-champion Warriors. The Wizards will take on Steph Curry and Co. at Saitama Super Arena on Friday, September 30 (6AM ET) and Sunday, October 2 (1AM ET).
The trip to Japan is about more than just basketball, though. It’s an opportunity for the team to experience a new culture, some incredible food, and even see the home country of one of their teammates, Rui Hachimura.
For the players and coaching staff, the excitement and anticipation levels are high.
“I’ve never been to Japan,” said Deni Avdija. “I heard it’s a unique culture, and I can’t wait to go there and see a different side of the world. I know how to appreciate going to a different country and to absorb everything and get the culture and the food.”
“Your job makes it fun to go global and play in different countries,” Avdija continued. “It’s fun. It’s part of my job and it’s one of the blessings I got to do.”
Daniel Gafford also sees importance and excitement in experiencing different cultures.
“I really can’t wait to be in another culture out there in the world,” Gafford said. “Being in the American culture, you learn about America…but it’s always good to really just learn what’s going on around America, too.”
For Gafford, it’s all about values that his father instilled in him as a child.
“My dad was somewhat intertwined with it,” said Gafford. “He used to have his talks with me. You know, the little morning talks that your dad always gives you. I kind of paid attention to just some of the things that he said about all the countries around the world, and [Japan] was one of them. I can’t wait for it, because of all the conversations I’ve had with my pops in the past.”
This trip is extra important for fourth-year forward Hachimura, as it’s not only an opportunity to travel, but a trip home and a chance to see family.
“I want to see my family,” Hachimura said. “All my family is coming [to the game].”
Of course, this trip home comes with some tour-guide responsibilities for Hachimura.
“One thing I’m worried about is that we only have basically four full days,” said Hachimura. “If you go to Japan you need at least a week and a half to see different stuff…I’m setting up the team dinner, so I think the guys are going to love the dinner. The place that I picked is in the middle of everything, so they can see a lot of different stuff and different cultures.”
When the team returns to the U.S. after Sunday’s game against the Warriors, they’ll do so with a different perspective.They’ll come back with two games of experience playing against the defending champions and with a ton of experiences and stories that they’ll never forget.
Friday’s game against Golden State will be available on NBC Sports Washington and NBA TV and Sunday’s on NBA TV. Radio broadcasts of both game will be available live on Wizards Radio 24/7 on the Wizards app. Friday's game will also be live on 1580 AM and Sunday's game live The Team 980.