The NBA’s Rookie Transition Program garnered headlines last week when Minnesota Timberwolves’ lottery pick Shabazz Muhammad was sent home and, eventually, was threatened with being sent to the NBA Development League if he didn’t start to shape up. Washington Wizards’ second-round pick had a much different experience at the RTP, however — though he’s heard most of the information a time or two already.
Rice Jr. spent this past season playing with the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers where, on multiple occasions throughout the season, players are required to attend Team Awareness Meetings that help them transition to a life of playing professional basketball. That wasn’t the first time he’d heard the information presented last week either, though, because his father — a 15-year NBA veteran and three-time All-Star — had already been hammering responsibility, finances and the dangers of drugs into his son from an early age.
The younger Rice was still able to find new knowledge at last week’s program, though, telling the Washington Post’s Michael Lee that it helped to hear about how other players faced adversity with their role.
“The thing that stuck out to me was when we got to talk to some of the players and hear some of their biggest challenges, how they went through facing them and that kind of stuff,” Rice said. “For example, not playing that much. Jarrett Jack was there. Jerry Stackhouse was there and he was mentioning, whatever your role, whether minimum or large. I think that was the biggest thing that stuck out to me. Because as they said, some people in the league have never had to take a backseat, have never had to worry about not getting significant minutes and I was like, ‘I already been through that.’ ”
Rice could have trouble just finding a role in Washington this year considering his experience in the D-League had him playing as a sort-of stretch-four in new Toronto Raptors’ assistant Nick Nurse’s offense. Once he finds a position — which will likely be the small forward — fellow rookie Otto Porter, along with Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton and Martell Webster, will all likely be ahead of him on the Wizards’ depth chart to begin the season.
The younger Rice likely isn’t going to find the success his father did during his career, but it’s nice to see that he seems ready for the challenges that lie ahead.