NBA

PJ Washington Reflects on NBA Rookie Season

The Hornets rookie talks about his interest in business, what it’s been like watching without being in the bubble and shares the advice he’s received from fellow Wildcats in the league.

Despite completing just a single NBA season—one that happened to be cut short as a result of the coronavirus pandemic—Hornets forward PJ Washington has the composure and poise of a league veteran.

Washington, who was drafted No. 12 overall in the 2019 draft out of Kentucky, averaged just over 12 points and five rebounds per game in his debut campaign. His impact was also made through being a versatile defender and willing ball handler. Throughout quarantine Washington’s worked to refine his game, focusing not only on developing his game, but also working to improve his diet and his physical shape.

The 22-year-old is also finding new business opportunities. This past week, Washington announced a creative partnership with SportBLX that will allow fans to invest alongside him in an alternative asset class.

The former Kentucky forward recently caught up with Sports Illustrated to discuss his interest in business, talk about what it’s been like watching NBA action without being in the bubble and share the advice he’s received from fellow Wildcats in the league.

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Have you been watching games going on in the bubble and if so, what has it been like?

I’ve been watching them. I think it’s definitely cool that the NBA is doing it, but I mean, it’s definitely hard for me to watch it because I love playing basketball. Just watching the basketball makes me want to get out there and play.

We obviously hear a lot about the Duke brotherhood, but in the bubble a number of Kentucky players have starred, such as Tyler Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Bam Adebayo and Devin Booker. How close are you guys as a group?

We’re really close. I mean we pretty much talk all the time. We hit each other up, ask each other about things we can get better at all the time. So I’m not surprised that pretty much all the Kentucky guys are doing good in the bubble honestly.

What kind of advice have some of the older Kentucky guys given you?

Just stay focused, stay in the gym and just be prepared for anything. I talk to the guys that I played with obviously, like Shai, Hamidou Diallo. I’ll talk with Kevin Knox, obviously Tyler as well, and we all just try to keep our head straight and just focus on what’s in front of us and try to control what we can control.

When you look back on your rookie season, do you have a “welcome to the NBA” moment?

We played the Bulls in our first game and in our second game we played Minnesota. Then the third and fourth game, we played the Lakers and Clippers on a back-to-back. So that was my first road trip and it was my first back-to-back. Playing against LeBron [James], Anthony Davis and then Kawhi [Leonard] and the Clippers, I mean it was definitely crazy. I think it was big just playing in Staples Center and playing against both of those teams. Guarding LeBron a couple possessions and then guarding Anthony Davis as well.

What surprised you most from your rookie season?

I never really just got a chance to think about how many games there were. Like we literally play every other day, flying to different cities, going to different places, just playing different teams. And it’s just a lot. After Game 1, I can remember saying, Damn like I got 81 more games. This is crazy.

Building off that, have you thought about the upcoming seasons and how unusual it might be?

I think I’ve just been focusing on what I can do. I mean, honestly, there’s so many different possibilities for next season and we don’t know what could happen. We don’t know when the season is gonna start. We don’t know if fans will be there or not. So I think my biggest concern is just trying to make sure that I’m ready for when it does start.

What expectations do you guys have for the season?

I think next season, we should be really good. Everybody’s invested in our process. Everybody’s been working hard. Everybody’s trying to do something here in Charlotte. So I see me and my teammates are having a great year. I don’t see us not making the playoffs. I feel like we have the talent to and we have the mindset to make the playoffs. So that’s one of our goals—making the playoffs and then trying to just compete at a very high level each and every night.

Off the court, you appear to be making some news as the general public can invest alongside you in an innovative partnership with SportBLX. Why was that important for you to be involved with?

So I’ve announced that I’m partnering with SportBLX to become their first official player-partner. SportBLX is basically an online financial platform that allows you to invest in sports. I think it’s a great way for me to build wealth off the court and just to continue to live the lifestyle that I want to live. I think SportBLX has done a great job of providing me that. And if a person invests into my business, they can receive up to a 5% rate of return, plus the upside from operations in my corporation when they invest. And I’ll be making contributions to corporations that fund the returns to the investors.

Have you had similar conversations about business with other people? Do you feel like your generation of players is more aware of these opportunities?

I’ve had some conversations with a bunch of different players, but, we haven’t gotten anybody on board at SportBLX. So I’m pretty much the building block. But yeah, I think my generation realized that the most money we’re going to make this right here during our careers. So we can also use our own name and use our own platform to build wealth off the court and start our own businesses and doing stuff like this.

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