For Glen Rice Jr., much of what he heard at the NBA’s rookie transition program last week was less revelation than reinforcement. With a father who played 15 seasons in the league, Rice has heard numerous tales about what to expect with life in the NBA. But he found the four-day seminar, which delved into the challenges and perks of playing in the league, beneficial and informative nonetheless.
“I had a brief idea of what all the topics was going to be. They just went more in depth into all the topics,” Rice, the Wizards’ 6-foot-6 swingman, said in a recent telephone interview. “It definitely matched, for the most part. That’s a big advantage that I have, hearing multiple sources say the same things. It tells you exactly how real it is.”
Rice, the 35th pick of last June’s draft, and teammate Otto Porter Jr. were among the more than 50 players trapped in a secluded office park in Florham Park, N.J., where they got advice on how to handle their finances, dealing with groupies, the dangers of drugs and other situations that they could encounter in the NBA. They also got an understanding of the league’s reach around the globe, the rules of the game and importance of being a positive representation for a multi-billion dollar business.
“The thing that stuck out to me was when we got to talk to some of the players and hear some of their biggest challenges, how they went through facing them and that kind of stuff,” Rice said. “For example, not playing that much. Jarrett Jack was there. Jerry Stackhouse was there and he was mentioning, whatever your role, whether minimum or large. I think that was the biggest thing that stuck out to me. Because as they said, some people in the league have never had to take a backseat, have never had to worry about not getting significant minutes and I was like, ‘I already been through that.’ ”
Rice has played professionally after spending a season in the Development League. He wasn’t immediately in the rotation with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers but fought for minutes, even if it meant that he had to play power forward. When the opportunity to play finally arrived, Rice took full advantage and led the Vipers to the D-League title and earned MVP honors.
“I think it’ll help,” Rice said. “Of course it’ll be able to transfer to the next league, anything you learn anywhere will transfer if you use it right.”
Rice earned just $35,000 in the D-League but plans to remain frugal after signing a rookie minimum deal with the Wizards. The players were given constant reminders about the need to save, to be cautious with spending and careful with where they invest their money.
“I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble with that, because that’s not my personality. I’m always stingy with what I have. I still have most of my D-League money,” Rice said with a laugh. “So it’s never been a problem with spending as much with some other people.”
After tying Jan Vesely with a team-best 11.6 points per game in five games during the Las Vegas summer league, Rice has been steadily working on his game at Verizon Center with Porter and Bradley Beal. Kevin Seraphin and John Wall have also been around to participate in the workouts.
Rice was pleased with his performance in Las Vegas, where he displayed his shooting ability and athleticism, but knows he has a ways to go. He faces an uphill battle for minutes in Washington with Beal, Martell Webster and even veteran Eric Maynor expected to claim most of the minutes at shooting guard.
“Summer league the games aren’t as long as NBA games. You don’t get to experience how conditioned you need to be,” Rice said. “A lot of guys performed well and you really get to the see the jump. Even though it’s not going to be as the big as the jump to the NBA, you do see the jump because of the competition there. I got to keep working on shooting the ball, everything, for the most part.”
Rice said he really started to feel that his NBA dreams were real last week, when he posed for pictures in his new No. 14 Wizards jersey during the rookie photo shoot.
“Of course it felt good to know that there was a jersey there with your name on it and the NBA logo,” Rice said. “I’m definitely excited. Anxious and ready to keep working, so that when the opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”