Orien Greene and the Quest for Redemption

Henry Abbott of TrueHoop wrote a fantastic piece yesterday about Orien Greene, a one-time Pacer who has become a journeyman throughout various professional basketball leagues on multiple continents. The one league he wants to play in is the NBA of course. But due to some immaturity in his younger days, he sits on the outside looking in.

He might have enough talent to be a rotation player in the the association, but he unfortunately doesn’t have enough talent to make GMs who have heard about his negative side take a chance. At least not yet.

at age 28 Greene continues to deliver elite defense for the D-League’s Utah Flash, to go with — as of today — 23 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals while making 48 percent of his 3-pointers, and 52 percent of all field goals.

How is a guy like this not in the NBA?

Ask NBA front offices and you’ll hear that he’s a perfectly good player, but something of a knucklehead; Near the end of that rookie year he was pulled over going close to 100 miles an hour in suburban Boston, for instance. There have been drug test issues.

Ask Greene — who has played briefly for the Pacers and Kings, as well as in New Zealand, Jerusalem, Amsterdam and Orem, Utah since leaving the Celtics — and he’ll tell you the same thing.

“The drug test. That night in Boston. Everything. … I would have done a lot of things different. If not for those, maybe I wouldn’t be at this point right now,” he explains. “That’s the thing: I wish that I would have been a little bit more professional when I was in the league.”

That’s his past.

This was his wake-up call.

So Venezuela was off, and it was back to Orem, to pack his pregnant girlfriend and his clothes and everything else into the Lexus, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina to visit friends.

Ordinarily they’d fly, but they had some time on their hands, now. “Just decided to drive,” says Greene. “Like a little road trip.”

Greene had the first shift behind the wheel, about five hours. Then his girlfriend — he doesn’t want to say her name, but calls her his “girl” even though he has a daughter now — took the wheel. She was pregnant, and worried the seatbelt on the driver side was pushing against the baby in a bad way. She took off her seat belt.

Even in April, temperatures on the high plains of Wyoming can dip well below freezing at night. Roads can get icy. Asleep in the passenger seat, Orien woke up to the nightmare.

By the time they finally came to a stop, the vehicle had rolled three times and spun at least once. “We were headed East, but by the time the car stopped, it was facing West,” says Greene.

Against all odds, he, his girlfriend and the baby were all fine.

Now, this is his hopeful future.

“I ain’t getting no younger. More guys coming out, more athletic. More a lot of stuff,” he says. “But I don’t think there’s a lot of guys in the league right now who can bring what I bring. I’m 28. Whatever. A lot of guys in the league, that I see right now, don’t really play both sides of the ball.

“Lord willing, lord willing, somebody’s going to call me and I can get back in.”

The redemption tale is as old as time. But it still works. We want guys like this to make it. It gives hope to the rest of us that, even if we screwed up in the past, the future is not yet written. We can change our lot in life and make up for the flaws of our younger, dumber selves.

Orien sounds positive and appears to be plugging away, ready to put in the work needed to prove to the world that he belongs where he knows he belongs. But if he needs a little extra encouragement, he can look to another formerly troubled Pacers after-thought who has turned his career — and perhaps his life — around.

Shawne Williams was taken 17th overall by Indiana in the 2006 Draft. His time on the court was unremarkable. He showed some flashes, but never got many minutes. Then it all fell apart when he got involved in a slew of off-the-court incidents. On another team, it’s possible that his potential may have been worth the trouble. But not in Indy. Not after all the off-court embarrassments that Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels had put the team through.

So the Pacers dumped him. He wound up in Dallas but that didn’t stick.

Then he was out of the league.

Rock bottom for Shawne Williams occurred sometime last season when he was out of work and back home in Memphis.

His young nieces and nephews wondered why their uncle, the 17th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, was not playing NBA games on television.

“At first I didn’t even know they understood,” Williams, 24, said Monday after Knicks practice. “But after me being away, they understand more than I thought.”

But last summer he got another shot. The Knicks invited him to camp and, unexpectedly to many, kept him instead of Patrick Ewing, Jr., who was the team’s final cut despite having a name you would think would give him an advantage.

And in the small time Shawne has gotten this year, he has produced. He scored 13, 14 and 13 points in the Knicks first three games of December, hitting an impressive 10-for-12 from behind the arc while impressing his coach on the defensive end even more.

Since those three good games, he hasn’t gotten a lot of time. There just aren’t that many minutes to go around on this year’s resurgent Knicks squad. But whenever Mike D’Antoni has called his number, Williams has been ready.

Orien hopes to he is equally prepared when the call comes.

From anybody.

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Tags: Mike D'Antoni Orien Greene Shawne Wiliams

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