Optimism Fading For Donte Greene, Growing for Sacramento Kings' Rookies

Blake MehiganCorrespondent INovember 8, 2009

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Donte Greene #20 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates against the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA game on December 9, 2008 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Donte Greene is an exuberant young athlete. He has his own Internet show sponsored by the Sacramento Kings and is always trying to pump up the crowd from the sidelines. Greene has also become close friends with players such as Jason Thompson.

While Greene is such a great personality in the locker room and active in the community, he has struggled to find a niche on this fledgling Kings team.

Greene was wildly inconsistent last year for the Kings. He appeared in 55 games, started four, and put up less than four points per game in his rookie campaign. Along with abysmal shooting percentages from the floor and behind the arc, Greene managed to grab a meager 1.5 rebounds in a little more than 13 minutes per game.

The former Syracuse recruit showed great promise in the 2008 NBA summer league, posting 40 points in his summer league debut at the age of 19. The Kings had acquired Greene, Bobby Jackson and the Rockets’ 2009 first-round draft pick from Houston in an offseason trade for Ron Artest.

Jackson has since retired, and the Kings drafted the first Israeli player to the NBA in Omri Casspi with Houston’s 2009 pick. Now Sacramento and its fans will wait for Greene to hopefully tap into some of the vast potential he has.

For Greene, the sky is the limit. Standing 6’11”, Greene is an athletic forward who can hurt a team inside and outside. He has deep range on his jump shot, is capable of driving the lane and can play either the wing or the post.

It is often said that height and athleticism cannot be taught.  Instead, certain players are born with them.  Coach Paul Westphal has recognized that Greene has each, saying that Greene can earn more playing time by using his talent to become a better defensive player.

Greene’s long term future is uncertain, as it is for any young and raw athlete playing at a professional level. The Kings picked up Greene’s option for the 2010-2011 season. By that time, Greene will have had three seasons to prove himself as a capable NBA player.

Kings fans only hope Greene’s situation does not follow the same road Gerald Wallace’s did. Wallace rode the bench on a stacked Kings team in the early 2000’s, showing brief moments of potential to be a good player. Wallace was picked by the Charlotte Bobcats in the expansion draft and has become arguably their best player.

It would be very unfortunate for Geoff Petrie and the Kings organization, if Greene’s potential had not developed due to a lack of playing time.

Greene’s future has taken a bit of a back seat to all of the rookies on the Kings this season.

Tyreke Evans, the fourth overall pick in this years draft, dropped 32 points against the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Evans led the Kings to victory after being down as much as 15 in the first half. The victory came in spite of Kevin Martin being out because of a fractured wrist.

Omri Casspi and Jon Brockman are hard as rocks, as is Evans. Casspi is a Nocioni type player, except a bit longer and perhaps a bit more athletic. Casspi is a scrapper, brings a lot of energy to the floor and is a great shooter.

Brockman is a bit undersized for his position, but makes up for it by having a nose for the ball. The former Huskie and collegiate teammate of Spencer Hawes, is an aggressive rebounder with relentless drive.

Evans, Casspi and Brockman are trying to change the soft, pushover mentality that has been is associated with Kings teams of the past.

It seems to be working.

The Kings have appeared to be playing more physical, with tougher defense and showing some grit. Collectively, the Kings are carving out an identity worthy of mention. They play hard, and it shows.

Two and four is not a record to be proud of, but it is not a record to be ashamed of, and a large step in the right direction from last season. The Kings won’t be fighting for a playoff spot, but they will give teams trouble and maybe steal a win here and there.

For those fans who can look past last season and what is sure to be another losing season, they can see the silver lining. And though that lining is thin, the glimmer is bright.