April 14th has been dubbed “Unsung Player Day” across the internet thanks to our friend Don from the With Malice blog.
It’s pretty self-explanatory too. There’s a lot of coverage given to LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and others around the league. And it’s deserving too. Those are the stars of the NBA. But there are plenty of players who do quite a bit and hardly ever get recognized.
I decided to nominate Donté Greene for this site’s Unsung Player post. Normally, we’re supposed to nominate guys that don’t play more than 10 minutes per game but still find a way to contribute to the greatness of this league. I could have easily just gone and picked Jon Brockman to be the Unsung Player because he fits into this criteria more than Greene. But I want to bend the rules quite a bit and recognize a guy that matured from his rookie season to his sophomore season in a way that few expected. Donté Greene has made such a huge change in just one season that I feel he needs to be recognized. I know it’s outside of the guidelines but for the Kings, I felt Donté was the only choice.
Donté Greene was an intriguing prospect out of Syracuse. He’s built in that Tim Thomas frame of a tall, lanky shooter who is extremely athletic and capable of doing anything he wants on the court. But luckily for Donté he has a much better attitude and self-awareness about the game of basketball and where he fits in than Tim Thomas ever did.
After nearly setting the Las Vegas Summer League on fire with a 40-point game for the Houston Rockets, he was eventually traded here to the Kings for Ron Artest. There were other pieces to the deal involved but none as important as Donté. When he got here, he had to deal with a coach on his way out who had no business being in charge and then an assistant coach who was completely overmatched and had no business being in charge. Lost in all of that chaos was a wasted rookie season for Greene.
He looked completely lost on both ends of the floor and looked to be either a bust of a first round pick or a reclamation project that would be far more work than production yielded.
However, this season was a huge sign that neither of those seemingly worst-case scenarios were going to be true. The Show (as Sactown Royalty has properly dubbed him) came to this team and its new regime ready to play and ready to earn whatever came his way. In his rookie season, we saw an unsure shooter that didn’t know when to let it fly or when to move the ball. That wasn’t a problem in year two of his career. He was confident in his jumper and proved to be able to swing a game with timely shots.
But most importantly for Donté was the way he earned his way onto the court and into the starting lineup – with his defense. He didn’t seem like he was capable of being a competent defender during his rookie season. So he dedicated himself to the defensive side of the ball in the off-season and learned how to use his athletic ability and quickness to slow the game down. Now? He’s often guarding the best wing scorer on the opposing team.
That doesn’t just happen in one year for most guys and for some guys, it never happens. It showed maturity in a young player. It showed that some guys are willing to work for their success in this league even after they’ve made it with a guaranteed contract. He improved nearly every aspect of his game but made sure to improve the one that gets the least publicity or reward – defense.
Now Donté looks like he can be an elite defender in this league along with a timely shooter and a regular starter. He still has a lot of improvements to make across his skill set but he proved in a short time that he’s willing to work at it.
That’s why he’s Cowbell Kingdom’s Unsung Player today.