Hey, Wizards fans, remember Glen Rice? No, no, not three time All-Star, NCAA champion, 1997 All-Star game MVP, NBA champion Glen Rice. The other one. His kid. Glen Rice, Jr. 2013 Washington Wizards second round draft pick? 2014 NBA Summer League MVP? First guy ever drafted out of the D-League? Supposed to make a major leap this year off the bench for the Wizards? Yeah, THAT Glen Rice. Remember him? It's been a couple of months, right? I think it's time we caught up with him. Is that OK?
Before we catch up, let's go back a bit. Three years ago this month, Glen was enrolled at Georgia Tech playing for the Yellow Jackets' men's basketball team. About a month later he would be suspended indefinitely from the team for undisclosed reasons. That suspension was not his first from the team that year; he was held out of the first three games of the 2011-2012 season for an undisclosed violation of team rules (LOVE Georgia Tech and their "undisclosed" reasons and violations). A month after his indefinite suspension began, Rice was charged in an incident involving the discharge of a firearm outside an Atlanta nightclub and was cut from the basketball team entirely. After being dismissed from the team, he would never play college ball again.
So at that point, Rice is pretty much a trouble maker, right? A kid who can't deal with society's rules or authority who was likely to just fade away. His next move was a bit surprising: playing for the NBDL's Rio Grande Valley Vipers way down in Hidalgo, Texas after being selected in the D-League's draft in November 2012. For a kid with an NBA focused, presumably comfy upbringing, playing in the no-frills, low low salary D-League with a team right on the Mexican border had to be humbling and tough.
Keep in mind Rice knew he was stuck there for the year. Since he bypassed the 2012 NBA Draft, he couldn't be called up by a team to the NBA; he would have to wait for the subsequent draft before being eligible for a call up. If he could survive the D-League, he could probably convince most people that he outgrew his trouble at Georgia Tech and had matured and was worth a second chance.
The Wizards bought it. The team held two second round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft and decided to send them both to the Philadelphia 76ers for the rights to Rice, whom they then signed to a one year, non-guaranteed contract with a team option for a second year, also non-guaranteed. Rice's rookie year was nothing to write home about. Not that scoring is everything, but he averaged just 2.9 points per game on slightly less than 30 percent shooting from the field in 11 games, including one start. He spent most of the time riding the pine or being inactive entirely and spent a few games with the Iowa Energy, who at that time were the Wizards' NBDL affiliate.
After his rookie campaign, Rice seemed to be pretty serious about showing the Wizards that his lack of playing time in 2013-2014 was a mistake and it started in Summer League in Las Vegas. Despite not winning the Summer League title, the Wizards made a strong showing, bowing out in the semi-final game to the eventual champion Sacramento Kings. Rice ended up as the Summer League Most Valuable Player in a unanimous vote. He averaged 25 points and just less than eight rebounds per game while shooting almost 47 percent from the field. While Summer League MVPs don't alway translate to NBA success, it was an encouraging sign for Rice.
The Wizards 2014-2015 NBA campaign started on October 29 and with Bradley Beal out for a couple of weeks with injury, the stage seemed to be set for Rice. He didn't play in the team's opener at Miami but did get involved in the next five games, scoring a season high five points in the Wizards' first victory of the season at the Orlando Magic. It was an ideal opportunity for Rice to crack the rotation in something resembling a permanent way. And if the Wizards needed something with Martell Webster missing the first couple of months after back surgery, it was a reliable scorer off the bench.
In his fifth game, a blowout loss in Toronto, Rice had some words for Randy Wittman when he was pulled from the game in the first half in favor of Rasual Butler. The exchange was significant enough that I noticed it from my seat at Air Canada Centre even though I was supposed to be paying attention to the game. Rice wouldn't re-enter the game. Butler, who has since emerged as the Wizards' leading bench scorer despite being the last guy to make the team, tallied only five points that night but it was clearly the beginning of something that has been one of the brightest spots for the team this season.
The next night as I was watching the Wizards play the Indiana Pacers in a bar in downtown Toronto, I remember a note on the ticker at the bottom of the screen about Rice and Wittman again exchanging words. What was going on? I could understand Rice being frustrated about his limited playing time with the team, but his 20 percent shooting from the field wasn't exactly forcing coach to get him in the game at every opportunity.
The Toronto game was not the first time I'd seen Rice talking back to our coaches. He blew off Sam Cassell in our second Summer League game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He appeared to be either upset about not getting calls from the referees or maybe Alexy Schved lit him up a bit too much. Either way, he was clearly agitated. Al Harrington, who was serving as a volunteer assistant during Summer League, also got the brush off from Rice that game just before halftime. While Glen was clearly too important to bench for a Summer League game, he's certainly not good enough to talk back during the regular season.
About two weeks after the Toronto game, Rice was assigned to the D-League, this time to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who had replaced the Iowa Energy as the Wizards NBDL affiliate when the Energy entered into an exclusive arrangement with the Memphis Grizzlies. With the return of Bradley Beal from injury, it looked like the perfect time to preserve Rice's playing time via a D-League assignment. He seemed to have been playing well for Fort Wayne, averaging 12.7 points in 14 games while hitting at over 49 percent from the field. In a loss at Sioux Falls on December 16, Rice went for 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting.
With the Mad Ants playing the Delaware 87ers next weekend on a Wizards off day in nearby Newark, Delaware, I thought it might be the ideal time to catch up with Glen's game. But in the last three games for the Mad Ants, Rice hasn't played a single minute. He's been a healthy scratch for all three games. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported yesterday that while Rice is still technically on the roster, it seems unlikely he'll play for the team again.
What's the deal here? Are the Wizards trying to trade Rice or are they just willing to let him sit in Fort Wayne? If the Mad Ants aren't going to play him, does it make sense to recall him? Or has he burned his bridges with the team and coaching staff? Rice's contract for a little more than $800,000 becomes guaranteed a week from today. If they decide to terminate his contract before that date, they owe only $400,000. Seems like a decision is likely looming in the next couple of days. I'm still likely headed up to Delaware next Saturday, but I'm pretty sure I won't find Glen Rice there, although he apparently was in D.C. last night for his birthday party. I'm questioning the "superstar" label in the advertisement below; I elected to stay home rather than texting SWANK to 41411.