IT would take a lot to impress Glen Rice, one of the NBA’s legendary marksmen, when it comes to shooting from downtown.
Allan Caidic has no doubt done that.
During a viewing party hosted by Basketball TV on Thursday highlighting the first ever NBA Filipino Heritage Week, SPIN.ph asked the visiting NBA legend about his recollections of his first visit to Manila seven years ago.
“Absolutely! We had an exhibition game and one of the things I remember the most is my teammate who was raining threes the whole night, nicknamed ‘Triggerman.' I believe his first name was Allan,” said Rice, the winner of the 1995 NBA All-Star three-point shootout and the 1997 NBA three-point field percentage leader (47%).
Caidic stole the show in the 2010 NBA Asia Challenge by dropping 14 three-pointers in 24 minutes en route to 54 points in a match-up of teams composed of former NBA and PBA players at the Araneta Coliseum.
“(He was) incredible man! I’m a big fan of shooters and when you have guys shooting like he was that night it’s hard to forget that,” said Rice, a member of six NBA teams that included the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets and a championship-winning Los Angeles Lakers squad.
Ever since then I have not been able to hook up with him but I’m very hopeful that we could have some contact while I’m here. That would be icing on the cake.”
Asked if he was interested in a friendly contest from beyond the arc against Caidic, the 49-year old Rice jokingly replied, “I wouldn’t beat him!”
The three-time All-Star is in Manila to represent the NBA and the Heat, who are coached by Fil-American Erik Spoelstra, whose team won against the New Orleans Pelicans.
“Erik has represented the Filipino very well. It’s been very great for me here. I’ve been welcomed with open arms. The hospitality has been above and beyond and I am very grateful for that. It gives me the opportunity to learn your heritage. Feed me all you can feed me. I’m gonna be like a sponge. I heard some really good things about your culture,” said Rice.
Rice, who played with six NBA teams, identifies most with the Heat, the franchise that selected him fourth overall in the 1989 NBA Draft after leading the Michigan Wolverines to an NCAA title.
“They’re the first team I played with when I came into the league. My connection, my roots is all there with the Miami Heat and I live (in Florida) so it’s easy for me to be attached to the Heat. And I honestly believe they are the best organization in the NBA.”
The NBA cited the 5.7 million Filipino followers of the Miami Heat’s Facebook page which is 300,000 more than fans in the US.
“Basketball here is big. It wouldn’t be a surprise to me soon if you have an upcoming star that makes it into the NBA. It’s no surprise to me that the love of basketball here is at a big-time high.”
Asked whether a Filipino player has what it takes to play in the NBA, Rice was optimistic of the chances.
“Absolutely! Basketball here is pretty like much in the States. The availability is like night and day, you can pretty much play anytime so when you get that much playing time your skill level in basketball is going to be a lot higher than other countries that play just in the weekend.”
A full-time scout for Miami, Rice said hard work and mental fortitude are essential to making it in the pros.
"It’s easy - all you gotta do is keep working. You gotta understand that you have the mentality that when guys take a break, that’s your opportunity to stay on your jumper, to keep working. Always keep that belief that you will get there one day, regardless of your falls along the way. You gotta get back up and you gotta keep working much harder and it will happen,” said Rice, who is famous for honing his jumpshot by shooting in neighborhood courts even until it got dark in his younger days in Flint, Michigan.
“Listen, I went there with the lights off. I was trying to turn them on. By turning them on you gotta get hot, you gotta get on fire. So they gotta keep working on it.”
One of the NBA's premier shoooters was asked by SPIN.ph who he thinks is the best perimeter player in the league.
“Oh that’s an easy answer right there,” he said laughing. “I would have to say Steph Curry.”
Rice noted that Curry shoots in a different way from most long-range specialists.
“Most shooters never really handle the basketball as much as he does and shoots it off the dribble as well as he does. He shoots from deep and he’s very consistent. It’s easy to say he’s the best marksman in the game today.”
The NBA legend also noted that the game has changed from when he was playing from a more physical, half-court game to a faster, up-tempo game.
“The biggest difference to now from when I was playing was we didn’t really look for the three unless we needed the three-pointer. That’s a norm now. For me and along with a lot of guys who are capable of shooting three-pointers back in the day. We just get so hung if we played now and how much easier it would be to get points.”
“Teams are looking for shooters now. You got power forwards now that are capable of stepping out and shoot three-pointers consistently. It brings another excitement to the game,” added Rice who believes the three-pointer has supplanted the dunk.
“I have always been one of the players that have thought that outside of the dunk the three-pointer was one of the most exciting things to see being done throughout the game and now it’s in the forefront. The dunk has taken a back seat to the three-pointer now and you see that quite often from a lot of teams.”
Placed in a hypothetical situation where he had the ball and his team was down by three in the last play with Curry and Klay Thompson as teammates, Rice was asked whether he would shoot or pass.
“I have the ball? I’m shooting it! I was never known for leading the team in assists!”