LAS VEGAS — In the second half of the Wizards’ 67-61 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team was preparing to inbound the ball and Glen Rice Jr. leaned over, tugged on his shorts and shouted for Otto Porter Jr. to see if the play should go to him.
“Hey, Otto,” Rice said. “Hey, Otto! You want this one?”
The Wizards’ summer league adventure through Las Vegas is all about showcasing the talents of 2013 draft picks Porter and Rice after both mostly spent their respective rookie seasons as spectators on a playoff team. And, through the first two games at Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of UNLV, Porter and Rice seem to be content tag-teaming and taking turns handling the scoring load while leading the Wizards to wins.
On Sunday, it was Rice’s turn to have an efficient scoring night, posting a game-high 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Rice added six rebounds and three steals as the Wizards got off to their best summer league start since John Wall and JaVale McGee led the squad in 2010.
“That’s what we here for. We ain’t here for me. We here for Otto and Glen,” said Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell, who is leading the team this summer.
For the second game in a row, Porter opened the game by making his first two shots. But he started to cool off midway in the game, missing eight of his next 10 field goal attempts. Instead of shying away from the ball, Porter stayed aggressive and finished with 13 points on 6 of 16 shooting.
“I told Otto, he can’t take a bad shot — maybe an ill-advised shot, but not a bad shot in this tournament,” Cassell said. “He’s playing pretty good. Otto is not the kind of guy you can give the ball and say, ‘Go score.’ You got to put Otto in a set, because he plays the game the right way. Glen Rice, on the other hand, you throw him the ball and say, ‘You go get a basket.’ And he’ll find a way to get it.”
Rice found his shooting stroke early against Minnesota — which was coached by former Wizards assistant Ryan Saunders — scoring his first 16 points on just six shots. He displayed his entire offensive arsenal, pulling up for quick three-pointers in transition and using his strength to barrel his way inside for bruising layups and tough hanging floaters.
“Normally, I’m up there a little longer than most people and I’m still able to knock it down,” Rice said. “I mean I been working on it for a while. The shots kept coming; the opportunities kept coming behind the arc. Coach drew up a couple more plays to get me a few more open threes. When you get that feeling, when you hot, it’s always a lot easier shooting that ball.”
Rice scored 22 points in the Wizards’ 90-74 win on Saturday over the Atlanta Hawks, collecting most of his offense from the foul line, where he made 14 of 16 free throw attempts.
“That’s what he does. That’s his stronger aspect,” Cassell said. “On our team, we have one guy that can get us into the penalty and that’s John Wall. I think Glen might be the other guy. He’s going to make it hard for somebody. He showcased his talent, what he can do out on the basketball court and he’s doing a…good job right now.”
Porter also proved that he could absorb some contact in the second half against Minnesota as he completed a three-point play, getting knocked back while dropping a step back jumper. His night was interrupted in the third quarter when he went to bench after getting smacked in the face and hunched over, trying to regain his faculties. He came back to finish, knocking down a jumper in the closing minutes.
In two games, Porter has scored 38 points on 17 of 32 (53.1 percent) shooting, heading Cassell’s calls to keep taking good looks when they become available. At times as a rookie, Porter appeared reluctant to shoot or unsure of himself but he has shed that passivity.
Porter is also taking on more playmaking responsibilities after being forced to play off the ball as shooting guard in summer league and struggling last year. In the first period against Minnesota, Porter grabbed a rebound and led a fast break, passing the ball out to Rice and taking it back before finishing with a reverse layup.
“Sam gave me control of the team. ‘Hey, this is your team. It falls on you and Glen. You’ve got to lead these guys to victory,’ ” Porter said. “Sometimes Wall want to get out and run the floor. By me doing that, he can run the court and he can get a couple of fast-break layups, him and Brad [Beal]. We just have a lot of different options.”
Cassell has been pleased with what he has seen so far from Porter. “It’s a lot of things that y’all haven’t seen Otto can do. He’s a good ball player. He just hasn’t gotten the opportunity,” he said. “Otto understands the game. Otto is a student of the game of basketball. He understands how to play the way to get in, to fit in to be successful.”
The Wizards will get the day off on Monday before returning to close out the first-round of this tournament on Tuesday against the Miami Heat.