Since Donte Greene’s announcement to declare for the NBA draft yesterday, I’ve heard a lot of gentle questioning of his logic couched in otherwise supportive talk. Sadness over his departure, understanding the logic of financial decisions, and bidding him a fond farewell. On one level I get that. He’s a talented player pursuing a career in basketball, and as the financial analysts and career advisers would say, he wants to maximize his earning potential. I am neither or these, and therefore have this to say: You know what? Donte Greene can kiss my ass.
Donte Greene leaves as his legacy one season in which he was the leading scorer on one of the lowest performing Syracuse teams in 25 years. He rolled into town flashing the dynasty symbol and ultimately “led” his team to the quarterfinals of the NIT. There, he embodied the team’s reputation of giving up on defense when they had a lead, resulting in a humiliating blown 22 point second half lead at home against a hustling UMass team to end his college career. Over the season he hoisted 521 shots (the most of anyone on the team by over 100) for the lowest field goal percentage of all. 261 of those were 3’s, which he hit a mediocre 34% of. His “hustle” stats finished up at 7.2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. So you’re telling me at the end of that freshman campaign he looks at this season and he says: “you know what? I think I’ve accomplished all I can here. The scouts have seen enough.” Really dude????
Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe that Donte Greene sucks. As a freshman, he exhibited all these flaws but showed a tremendous amount of promise and talent. I loved him not for the player he was this year, but for the player I would get to watch him become on dominant Syracuse teams over the next year or two. Next year, he would have been the star of a top-10 team playing in the nation’s best conference, on national television constantly, and getting the kind of hype that is the stuff of a marketing agent’s wet dream. He could have left as a top 5 pick with a multi-million dollar shoe deal, an established fan base, and looking forward to being an impact rookie in the NBA where he’d be seeing some real minutes.
Now? At this moment, he is exactly what no NBA team needs: a shoot-first guy who can’t create his own shot, defend NBA forwards, set up his teammates, or fill out his game with intangibles. He’s going to go late in the first round to some team like Phoenix, and spend 45 of every 48 game minutes riding the pine. His picture will not grace the front page of ESPN.com next season, and he will have to battle not only to make a name for himself, but to secure a toehold in the league in the long term. And the people of Syracuse will forget him more quickly than any other “star” in the team’s history.
It’s a bad move in every way, and as a fan, I offer him my hairy cheeks as a parting salute.