LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 13: Ron Artest #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers tries to steal the ball from Donte Greene #20 of the Sacramento Kings during their preseason game at the Thomas & Mack Center October 13 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. The Lakers won 98-95. 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 Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
In the quest to choose a champion in the great Donte Greene-Omri Casspi showdown of 2010, Paul Westphal has chose no champion. In nodding toward Donté as the likely opening day starter but repeatedly emphasizing that he likes Casspi as a sixth man, almost as if the battle has been extended through this season. In other words, Donté is (likely) the starter, but which player will be most important to the Kings remains undecided.
That works for us as fans; speaking for myself, at least, it's the best possible solution. This isn't about applied pressure. This isn't about needing to keep a firebrand on the players' asses to get them to play hard. These dudes play hard. Even as a beguiled rookie, Greene played hard. Casspi doesn't know any other way to play than hard. There's no need to ride these two players, at least as far as I can tell. Every issue Greene's had with the team (both pre-Westphal and now) stems from Donté trying to do too much on the court or working hard at the (apparently) wrong thing off the court (with the muscle gain this summer being the latest example).*
In fact, if any, this quasi-resolution might make the two more collected on the court. The players have both been said to be gunned up in the preseason and in practices; adding energy to energy is sometimes too volatile, so I could how the competition could serve to have each overplay a bit. With roles known, that should end. If Greene is indeed the starter, and Casspi the sixth man, there's enough stability to allow each to come into his own, to stick to his role as stated and thrive.
But there's still pressure. As I said, neither player has been lazy at any point in their Kings' careers. That's not going to start now, because if Greene falters, Omri is there. If Omri slows down, Greene can take more of his minutes. There's pressure, but it's steady, and the foundation is solid enough, it seems, that a switching wind won't knock things all out of whack.
So all that said, here we are, with Donté Greene, opening day starter.
Go back two years, before D.G.'s rookie season. Here's what I wrote about what I expected:
The Donté Greene who shows up this season isn't the Donté Greene Geoff Petrie traded for, or Daryl Morey picked (by trade), or Jim Boeheim recruited, or Reggie Theus dreams about. And anyone who says DONTE GREENE will show up in Year Two or Year Three or on January 17, 2011 ... that's all bone-throwing. They don't know. I don't know. You don't know.
Donté Greene doesn't know.
Every single one of us -- D.G., G.P., R.T., T.Z., S.t.R., Y.M., K.M. -- we will all find out at the same moment. Donté Greene will return to this Earth and he will take our breaths away. This is not a specimen to ease into excellence or "develop." This is a full-grown genius who shows up on your doorstep on a normal, unassuming day. He wears a three-piece suit and has a 17-inch fro-hawk. He smiles like a rainbow trout and exchanges foreign currency out of pocket. Euros, yen, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars. He's got that. He's got ev-e-ry-thing.
Greene is between his start and the end described above. This is a step, becoming an NBA starter. He's moving closer to realizing all that vast talent and potential contained in his skin. He's not there, and we have no clue how close he'll ever get.
This is simply a confirmation of what we have always known to be true: Donté Greene is fricking awesome. All hail a Greene future for Sacramento.
* One other issue Greene had: when he trashed Bobby Jackson's car. I don't think that's a telling event at this point.