RIO DE JANEIRO — Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell was rebounding shots at the Clube de Regatas do Flamengo practice facility here on Tuesday, and rookie Glen Rice Jr. was anxiously waiting at the top of the three-point line. After watching Cassell toss the ball to other players, Rice finally got his attention with a comment that any point guard, current or former, would love to hear.
“C’mon, throw the ball out here and get yourself an assist,” Rice said with a grin.
Cassell finally threw Rice the ball. Rice failed to deliver on his promise as he hit the front of the rim, but the comment reflects the confidence that he has already displayed as a rookie. Wizards guard Garrett Temple said recently that Rice talks more trash than anybody on the team.
“Rumor,” Rice shouted in protest. “That’s what that is, just a rumor.”
In the Wizards’ 111-106 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night, Rice scored 12 points in just 17 minutes and forced the extra frame when he came soaring in to catch Eric Maynor’s off-balanced, one-handed shot put and threw down a two-handed dunk just before the buzzer sounded.
“It was good,” Rice said of the play. “It was a close call. I didn’t know if it was in or out. It was just good to know that I could be in the right place at the right time.”
The Wizards had to board a flight for their 11-hour journey to Brazil immediately after the preseason game, and Rice joked afterward that he hopes he’s “not the villain.” But his teammates weren’t upset about having the journey delayed by another half-hour or so.
“It was an exciting way to go into overtime. It would’ve been different if it was a layup,” forward Martell Webster said. “The fact that he got a put-back dunk like that was pretty cool. Pretty cool. Come to find out, we get to the airport and the plane wasn’t even ready. We weren’t even ready to leave.”
When the Wizards finally did take off, Rice said he was fast asleep. “I was sleep all night long,” he said.
Rice has dreamed about being in the NBA ever since he grew up attending games and practices with his father, the former all-star and 15-year veteran. He was especially excited to make his debut against Brooklyn, against opponents like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who had a chance to play against his father.
“It’s definitely fun because those are the guys you play with on the video game, those are the guys you see all the time,” Rice said. “It was just a good experience to actually see a dream of playing against the guys you wanted to play against when you were young.”
After spending last season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League, Rice believes he has a greater advantage than if he had just gone straight from college. He had to adjust to playing a minor role, then volunteered to take on any position in order to get playing time and finally broke out once given an opportunity. The experience has kept Rice from having too much awe of the opposition as he approaches his rookie season.
“I’m just playing basketball,” Rice said. “You can’t think too much about it. We’ve all been working, protecting our craft, since a young age. We all can play. Sometimes, they are going to get the best of you and sometimes, you’re going to get the best of them. You can’t rely on it, you’ve got to keep working and do only things you can control.”
Coach Randy Wittman has been pleased with Rice’s willingness to compete each practice, but he still seeking a consistent effort from the 22-year-old shooting guard. “He’s learning. This is a new experience for him in terms of how he’s going to play, but he’s trying and he’s got to continue that,” Wittman said. “His main thing has got to be go hard out, every time he steps on the floor. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing for a guy coming into the league that maybe coasted a little bit in college or in the D-League or where it is that he’s coming from. But Glen, he’s trying, and he’s learning, so those are always positive things for a coach.”
THE WIZARDS IN RIO
— Follow along with Michael Lee as he documents his journey on Instagram.