Glen Rice Jr. is headed back to familiar territory. The Wizards assigned the 6-foot-6 rookie swingman to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Developmental League to recover from a fractured right wrist.
Rice has been sidelined since having surgery on Dec. 17 but was recently cleared to participate in full basketball-related activities. Rice has appeared in 11 games, including one start, this season for Washington while averaging 2.9 points in 10 minutes per game.
Coach Randy Wittman said the move is more of a rehabilitation stint than a demotion. “That’s all it is. We got to see how it is – taking a hit, playing, shooting the ball – we just haven’t had practice time in this stretch of 17 games in 31 days of January. He needs live action. Not only to see where he is from an injury standpoint, but to get his rhythm back. Coming off screens, catching and shooting, best way to do that is playing and we don’t have a lot of opportunity to give him that now. So that’s the main thing.”
Otto Porter Jr. returned from a strained right hip flexor after missing three months of action last December but wasn’t sent down to the D-League. When asked to compare the situations, Wittman said Porter needed to be with the Wizards at the time.
“He was a rookie who didn’t know anything. We needed to teach him,” Wittman said. “It’s a different point in the season now, where all the guys have a grasp of what we’re trying to do, our philosophies, concepts, offensively. And that was early on, where Otto needed to learn what we were doing, so that was mainly it. Otto was able to do more stuff. We had more practice time. He was able to be with us.”
Like Rice, Porter has been used sparingly this season. Wittman added the D-League could eventually be an option for the third overall pick. “Sure. If it makes sense for us, we’ll always try to take advantage of…anything to help our players, we’ll take a look at it,” he said.
After his college career at Georgia Tech ended prematurely with his dismissal, Rice played with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League last season to rehabilitate his reputation. He was later selected 35th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers before getting traded to Washington in a draft-night deal for second-round picks Nate Wolters and Arsalan Kazemi.
Rice helped lead the Vipers to the D-League championship last season, averaging 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks in D-League Finals to earn series MVP honors.
Minnesota, which shares the same D-League affiliate as Washington, sent first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad down to Iowa earlier this month and he was called back after averaging 24.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in four games. The Energy has three games between now and Sunday and Rice is expected to join the team in Oakland next week for the final two games of its four-game West Coast trip.
Many of Rice’s teammates weren’t aware that he had already headed down. While getting dressed in the locker room on Monday before the team faced the Philadelphia 76ers, John Wall asked Garrett Temple what happened to Rice. Temple told him he was off to the D-League.
“Yeah,” Temple said. “He’s got to go to Iowa.”