Glen Rice Jr. Season in Review: Rookie continued to use D-League as avenue to prepare for opportunity

June 17
Glen Rice Jr.'s rookie season with the Wizards brought little playing time but showed flashes of potential (Associated Press)
Glen Rice Jr.’s rookie season with the Wizards brought little playing time but showed flashes of potential (Associated Press)

Though he appeared in just 11 games this past season, made two trips down to the Developmental League and missed time with a broken wrist, Glen Rice Jr.’s voice still resonated within the Washington Wizards locker room.

The words typically flow in the form of lighthearted trash talk, with some teammates laughing it off as a part of Rice’s personality and others using it as fuel to elevate their game and intensity.

“He thinks he’s his Dad, so he’s got that going,” Bradley Beal said jokingly in reference to Rice’s dad, Glen Sr., who was a three-time NBA All-Star in the 1990s. “But that’s my guy. He competes. He does have a little trash talk to him but it brings that fire and that competitiveness. He’s definitely a reason why I continue to get better.”

“I do a lot of talking, just to get in people’s head just to get the competition up,” Rice admitted. “When people talk a little smack, competition raises more. Otto (Porter) responded tremendously. He took the smack talking and threw it back out there with his game play.”

Aside from his outgoing nature, much of Rice’s confidence stems from his unique prior experience as an amateur professional. Following his dismissal from the Georgia Tech basketball team, Rice was selected in the 2012 NBA D-League Draft and eventually developed a reputation as a high-flying scorer who could fill up the stat sheet and defend well.

These attributes drew the Wizards to trade for Rice last June after he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers and surfaced at moments during summer league. But the rawness of Rice’s talent also was evident during the first two months of the season, resulting in erratic spurts of offense, a freak injury and no playing time in the Wizards final 71 games of the season and playoffs.

Unlike his fellow small forwards, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, Rice struggled to find his shooting touch from the perimeter. In 11 games, he hit just 29.4 percent of his three-point attempts and 29.7 percent of his total field goals. Though the Wizards placed a greater emphasis on their team defense as the season wore on, Rice’s inability to generate offense in a system that thrives off penetrate-and-pass moves hurt his chances of cracking Coach Randy Wittman’s eight-to-ten-man rotation.

Rice’s D-League experience likely made it easier for the Wizards to elect sending him down for a January rehab stint after injuring his wrist while celebrating a Beal game-winner, and again in March before rejoining the Wizards for the playoffs. Rice turned heads in that time, averaging 14.6 points in 16 games, and his success raises the question of whether the Wizards would benefit from having their own D-League team rather than sharing the Fort Wayne Mad Ants with 13 other teams. But in order for Rice, whose contract isn’t guaranteed for next season, to make an impact at the highest level, he knows that his game must be greatly fine-tuned, from his decision-making off the dribble to his footwork on both ends of the floor.

“I learned sometimes you wake up and you don’t know necessarily if you want to get to the gym early and I just learned about myself that I can fight through and keep working even if the times is tough,” said Rice, who is likely to join the Wizards’ summer league team. “I think I just need to keep working. I’ve been working hard all season. Just keep working on making sure I’m knocking down shots, scoring and defense, just making sure I’m not getting out of shape during the offseason.”

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