Despite a wrongful perceived notion, playing in Sacramento is a special time for just about any player – especially one as personable as Donte Greene. Yes, around the league Sacramento has a stigma attached to it but almost any player who’s suited up for the Kings franchise will tell you just how wonderful a place it is to play. From a franchise cornerstone like Chris Webber to a reserve big man in Scot Pollard, players are universally loved and held in the highest regard, no matter their role on the team.
Few players felt that more than former Kings forward Donte Greene, who after four seasons in Sacramento said goodbye this offseason. Still currently a free agent, Greene never fully matured into the talent the Kings front office had hoped for when they acquired the 28th pick in the ’08 Draft (along with Bobby Jackson and Omri Casspi) from Houston in exchange for Ron Artest.
A solid sophomore campaign in which Greene had career high’s (still to this day) across the board gave the purple and black faithful reason to believe the former Orangeman was their small forward of the future. In 21 minutes a game, Donte put up 8.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and nearly a block and an assist a night on 44% shooting – not to mention playing semi-respectable defense at a young age. Given annual growth, it was fair to speculate that Greene had a long-term future in Sacramento but it never materialized.
For the following two seasons, Donte struggled – struggled to see floor time and struggled to make an impact when on the court. His numbers dipped and the second year explosion looked more like an anomaly than growth. As much as he was beloved by the King fandom, the writing was slowly being written on the wall.
In terms of a goodwill ambassador, few could ever rival Greene. His caring and open ways were constantly on display, be it visiting local hospitals to working with children to even putting on charity basketball games from fan requests during last years lockout. It was Greene who, when many felt the Kings had played their final game in Sacramento, stayed in the arena with the distraught King faithful. It was Greene who always made himself available to local media and fans. Greene’s the pro’s pro and his constant happiness was a beacon of light for a franchise that struggled to find their way in the dark.
But in the cutthroat world of wins and losses, the one part Greene couldn’t master was his performance on the court. The Kings had the opportunity to retain Greene this offseason as he was due just under $3 million in a qualifying offer, but Geoff Petrie and company opted to move in a different direction trading for James Johnson to fill Greene’s spot, both on the court and financially.
Donte etched himself into the heart of King fans both old and young and will be missed by many, but it was clear he and the Kings needed a change for each party to get where they want to be.
I know one thing though – there isn’t a King fan not rooting for Donte to find success, wherever that may be. Good luck, Mr. Kane – we’re pulling for you.
Grade: Painful as it might be to say it, it’s an A for both parties – though Donte’s passion and energy will be sorely missed in both the locker room and community.