Glen Rice Jr. displays scoring ability in Wizards’ win over Bulls in preseason opener

Washington Post Wizards Insider


October 7 at 11:32 AM

Glen Rice Jr. scored a game-high 18 points in the Wizards’ 85-81 win over the Bulls Monday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

CHICAGO — Glen Rice Jr.’s preseason got off to a rocky start in the Wizards’ 85-81 win over the Bulls on Monday night. First, he committed an offensive foul, charging out-of-control through a defender on a fast break. Thirty seconds later, he hoisted a three-point shot that only grazed the backboard. It was, as one reporter described to him after the game, “a little off.”

“A little?” Rice joked.

The ugly shot didn’t deter Rice. Overshadowed by the heated contest’s scuffles, the ever-confident swingman kept shooting and missed just one of his next seven shots. He finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 21 minutes and sparked a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter that gave the Wizards to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“I was just happy to be out there,” said Rice, 23. “I just wanted to show them what I had been working on and wanted to translate it into the games. That’s all I was thinking about. Just doing what the coaches asked for and trying to win the game.”

Rice enters his second NBA season hoping to prove his summer league success — he averaged 25 points per game and was named MVP — translates to a standout preseason and a spot in the Wizards’ regular season rotation.

The opportunity is available; Martell Webster, the primary backup swingman, is still rehabbing from back surgery, and starting small forward Paul Pierce won’t log as many minutes as Trevor Ariza, last season’s starter, logged. In addition to Rice, the Wizards are counting on fellow small forward Otto Porter Jr., last year’s third overall pick, to develop into a similar role this season.

“It is the next step — summer league, preseason, regular season,” said Rice, a second-round selection last year. “Confidence is always there for us players because we work so hard. We believe in ourselves even if nobody else does. We’re going to always believe in ourselves. When your teammates believe in you, it makes it a lot easier.”

Rice’s emergence would solidify a bench that, on paper and without Webster, doesn’t have nearly as much depth as the front court and could use someone to create offense. Rice has been a scorer at every level — at Georgia Tech, in the D-League, and in summer league — and he exhibited the skill set Monday. But Coach Randy Wittman was most impressed with his work defensively.

“The thing I really liked the most was his effort and the things he did defensively,” Wittman said. “That’s what he’s got to do. I know he can score the ball. He’s got to prove to me he can play defense at the NBA level and I thought he went out today and gave it an effort there trying to show me.”

Rice bounced between the D-League and Wizards last season. He played in just 11 regular season games for the Wizards, starting one, and didn’t play in the postseason. But teammates have vouched for him and his ability. To them, Monday’s scoring barrage wasn’t a surprise.

“What I think about him is what I’ve known about him all along: the guy has a place in this league,” Pierce said. “He can play and he’s continued to show it. He showed it in the summer league. He’s been showing it in practices and he’s continued to show that he wants to play this year.”

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