Nikuro is a VIP guest of the Wizards in the bubble. He’s a virtual VIP guest, to be specific, which is why no one in the arena batted an eye when the 21-year-old wandered onto the court in the middle of a game. To be clear: Nikuro isn’t a real person. He’s one of a growing number of computer-generated virtual influencers, almost-human-looking characters manufactured by venture capital-backed technology companies across the world to serve as brand ambassadors in the music, fashion and entertainment industries. Nikuro, who was created by Tokyo-based 1Sec Inc., is the first such character to be employed by an NBA team. “We just thought it was a really unique and great way to connect with a younger generation and a new audience for us,” said Jim Van Stone, president of business operations for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Wizards.
Booker’s digging led her to Nikuro, whose Tokyo-based creator bills the character as Japan’s first male virtual influencer. He’s a basketball fan who splits his time between Tokyo and Los Angeles. He loves music, including Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber and Kendrick Lamar. “He may be fake, but he has a real personality,” 1Sec CEO Hirokuni Genie Miyaji told the Japan Times last year. Like Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, Nikuro is half Japanese, which made him an especially good fit for the team. “I just felt like that ties in perfectly with the story we’re building here with Rui,” Booker said. “He doesn’t have the millions of followers that some of the other virtual influencers do, but his story line is resonating [in Japan].”

Bradley Beal, John Wall active with Wizards

But the Wizards are still competing and have found support from outside the bubble. Bradley Beal and John Wall, the team’s cornerstone players who stayed home to recover from injuries, are watching daily practices and still participating in meetings and team group chats, sources said. The Wizards have set up live video links to practices and meetings for players and staff who are not in the bubble, sources said. Davis Bertans, who opted out of the restart due to health concerns and his pending free agency, has also been active on the live links, sources said.
Bradley Beal and John Wall, the team’s cornerstone players who stayed home to recover from injuries, are watching daily practices and still participating in meetings and team group chats, sources said. The Wizards have set up live video links to practices and meetings for players and staff who are not in the bubble, sources said. Davis Bertans, who opted out of the restart due to health concerns and his pending free agency, has also been active on the live links, sources said.
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
Now that the Wizards have lost their first two games at Disney World, that rule is coming back into the forefront. The Wizards are currently tied in the loss column with the Hornets, who aren’t in Orlando but are locked in with the eighth-best lottery odds. What that means is if the Wizards continue to lose, they can’t gain more ping-pong balls for lottery night, which is set for Aug. 25. And now there is a distinct possibility they could have worse odds than a team with a better win percentage than them.
Storyline: Draft Lottery
It would be a cruel twist for the Wizards, who need as much help as they can get in this year’s draft as they hope to find another blue chip prospect to add to their burgeoning young core. Making that pick count is especially important given their salary cap situation with John Wall and Bradley Beal on the books, which has left them with fewer resources to work with. They could get another key rotation player on a rookie contract. The good news is that the lottery rules were changed more permanently before last year’s drawing in order to create more parity in the annual event. It smoothed out the odds to discourage tanking and the results in its first year were as-intended.
Bradley Beal sent some tweets last week that suggested he had seen his lack of early All-NBA votes from national writers. On Sunday, he gave his full thoughts on the matter while serving as a guest analyst on the Wizards-Nets broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Beal seems to be most confused by the voting process which is based on the opinion of media members. “I honestly feel like I should be on there. Granted, I understand why if you are going to factor in winning. We haven’t won. From that standpoint, I get it. But other than that, I don’t see any argument,” he said.
The only thing better than NBA player comparisons are really old NBA player comparisons. They’re almost never right. During his guest appearance on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast for Wizards vs. Nets, Bradley Beal was informed of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski calling him a “more athletic JJ Redick,” during his days at Chaminade College Preparatory School. “That’s a funny comparison,” Beal said. “That’s a good comparison, I’m not mad at it because growing up, JJ was my favorite player at Duke. So I respect that.”
But Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said it’s undetermined if Crawford will make his Nets debut Sunday against Washington in Game 2 of the restart. It raises a mystery about his physical conditioning with Vaughn’s vague diagnosis. Crawford, signed as a replacement player because of the Nets’ depleted roster, already missed the opener. Crawford still played as many games as a Net as Kevin Durant, who pushed for his signing. Vaughn said Crawford will be “reassessed” Saturday night.
Justin Kubatko: CJ McCollum made his 1,000th career 3-pointer this afternoon. He reached that mark in his 474th career game. Only six players have done so faster: 1️⃣ 369 – Stephen Curry 2️⃣ 372 – Klay Thompson 3️⃣ 385 – Damain Lillard 4️⃣ 457 – Dennis Scott 5️⃣ 460 – Bradley Beal 6️⃣ 473 – Ray Allen

Players, coaches and teams have made it clear that shutting up and dribbling is not an option this season. The Hawks, Pistons and Kings have each worked out deals with their respective cities that their arenas will be used as polling places for the Nov. 3 general election; the Hornets and Wizards are working on similar arrangements. Each of those teams has already announced all of their employees will be given Election Day off with pay to make it easier for them to vote. “Black Lives Matter” is decaled on all of the courts in Florida that will host NBA and WNBA games this season.
Storyline: Social Justice Messages
Irene Pollin, who co-owned the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Capitals along with late husband Abe, has died. She was 96. Monumental Sports and Entertainment said Pollin died Tuesday at her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. “Much like her husband, Abe Pollin, she was an icon in the sports world and beloved throughout the Greater Washington communities who have benefited from her generosity over the course of her lifetime,” Monumental chairman and CEO Ted Leonsis said. “Irene will always be remembered and truly missed.”
The rumors about a Beal trade have been persistent, but not much has changed. He is not ready to demand a deal and the Wizards are committed to keeping him. Ideally, the team would get John Wall back, work their Wall-Beal guard pairing back into shape with some of the young players they’ve brought in—Rui Hachimura, Moe Wagner, Troy Brown—and show Beal there is a future with the Wiz. But the condensed 2020-21 season will put a monkey wrench into that. Western Conference GM: “They’ve been adamant that they are not trading Bradley Beal. We have not asked about him but others have, they let it be known, he is not going anywhere. But you have to think that will change eventually as we get close to the deadline. They gave him an extension and that kicked the can down the road on making decisions but, you know, the road got shortened because of the coronavirus.”