Greene’s Starting to Bloom

By Zack Cimini

Regret and rookie turmoil resulting from exiting college premature is more of the norm when it comes to young NBA players. The dollars may have been calling as underclassmen in college but once the dream is realized the functions of reality settle in. Most athletes are able to land themselves a multi year rookie contract and start spending freely with millions of alleged protected money. The mentality that they’re set for life quickly dissipates once summer league ball starts and training camp nears. This is a full time job and if you’re not ready that rookie contract will conclude and you may not get another shot in the NBA.

For second year Sacramento King player Donte Greene he knows the hard way how declaring to the NBA instantly after your freshman year in college can hurt you in the long run. The 6’11 forward had a solid but not dominating freshman year at Syracuse. Still his size and intangible skills were there before he even stepped on the court at Syracuse. He knew he could leave whenever he wanted to. Agents were ready to pounce on him awaiting his decision. Forget that he struggled off and on during that year at Syracuse especially defensively. A team that was loaded with talent and depth in Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris, and Greene ended up being NIT bound. All signs that Greene should of paid close attention to and came back for his sophomore year as Flynn did.

Instead Greene declared as he was told he would be a lottery pick. Those laudatory rumors would make any teenager bold enough to dart away from college academics to the life of a millionaire. Once draft day came Greene was abashed as he slipped nearly out of the first round and fell to Memphis with the 28th pick. He was bounced around quickly on draft day to the Houston Rockets and then eventually to the Sacramento Kings. The danger of being a near second round pick quickly let Greene know he could not be complacent with the Kings. He was going to need to work hard from day one, yet there was one major problem. Greene’s game was not NBA ready and he was shipped to the Kings NBA Development team in the Reno Big Horns.

During Greene’s time off he often would go back to Syracuse and take in what his life could have been. In fact during a high profiled game against Georgetown, Greene was interacting in the crowd and spot lighted helping out the Syracuse band by playing percussions. Greene knew his time would come and he had too keep working hard. When the Kings decided to rebuild completely by hiring Paul Westphal, Greene’s future was in certain doubt. Westphal though came in and decided to go young. This team is surrounded and built by a young core of players including Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, and young rising star Kevin Martin.

Westphal saw the talent was their for Greene to be a big part of this newly youth growing team. Greene jumped aboard with Westphal and has played a major factor in his second year. The area he has improved the most is his defensive intensity which was downright awful at times at Syracuse. At nearly 6’11 he has Tracy McGrady capabilities. He can handle the basketball and can knock down jump shots at any distance on the court. While at Syracuse he broke Gerry McNamara’s record for three pointers made by a freshman at 90. The ability to shoot the ball isn’t what Greene’s problems lied at. He tends to get shot happy and have very bad stretches of picking his spots. Those were observations Paul Westphal laid onto him right away, but did not let the young star get complacent.

Greene has earned strong playing time this season and has had three games of over 20 points. His playing time seems to only be increasing and is worth a look at picking up on your fantasy nba waiver wires. This team is going to be young for awhile and Westphal will let this team grow as a unit together. Off the court Greene showed his maturity in an act of heroism when he jumped in and saved a woman that had fell out of a boat and didn’t know how to swim last memorial day.

It looks like this 21 year olds blossoming and will be set for a great long career in the NBA.