Phoenix’s new recruit Yuta Watanabe and his Japanese teammates enjoyed an emphatic victory over Finland in the FIBA World Cup but the sharpshooter admitted he has been playing through injury.
“Speaking about my leg, I’ve received numerous suggestions to take a break and focus on the upcoming season,” he said on X. “However, when I hurt my leg in the games against Angola and Germany, I thoroughly examined it and made sure it wasn’t a serious injury before participating. I’m proceeding with caution. Rest assured, if there’s any concern, the coaching staff and our team doctor will stop me.”
Watanabe had a noticeable limp at the end of the game and only managed to score four points in 30 minutes, while his teammates Joshua Hawkinson (28 points, 19 rebounds) and Yuki Kawamura (25, nine assists) led the charge for Japan in their first ever win over a European team.
The host country come back from 18 points down and the crowd cheering on from the stands helped to spur Japan into action.
Watanabe was quite critical of the crowd after their first game against Germany but was quick to praise the fans this time.
“The atmosphere yesterday was great,” Watanabe wrote. “I’m really grateful to the people who bought tickets in a hurry and filled the seats. Special mention goes to the original ticket holders and the spirited supporters who remained undeterred, even in the face of numerous empty seats during the match against Germany. Looking forward to the next game!”
The next game Japan play will be against Australia on Tuesday night, which will be a must-win.
Check the FIBA website to see what time the game will be played in your timezone and where to watch it.
Following the World Cup campaign, Watanabe will join his former Nets teammate Kevin Durant in Phoenix for training camp.