Orien Turning Heads
October 24, 2005
Orien Greene gets it all the time. People think he looks a lot like Tracy McGrady, or at least McGrady's slightly shorter younger brother. Some see a little Robert Horry in Greene. Paul Pierce sees a taller, thinner version of former Celtic point guard Randy Brown.
Until now, Greene had not made much of a name for himself outside his hometown of Gainesville, Fla., and Lafayette, La., where he played his final two seasons of college ball with the Ragin' Cajuns. Even Greene admits he was "off the radar" when Boston selected him at No. 53 in the 2005 draft. So, it's easy to understand how people saw Greene as some other NBA player.
But with his consistently solid play at point guard during the exhibition season, Greene is gaining notice in Boston and around the league. When Pierce was asked whom he thought deserved extra attention for what he does in practice and games, the captain named Greene without hesitation. After all, Greene has almost single-handedly changed the complexion of the competition at point guard. By making smart passes and pressuring the ball, Greene has become a candidate to back up presumed starter Delonte West. In 12.8 minutes per game, Greene is averaging 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. When extrapolated over 48 minutes, Greene would lead the team in both categories with almost 10 assists and 5 steals per contest.
Asked to gauge his chances of being the backup point guard this season, Greene said, "Hopefully, one day. I'm just taking it one day at a time and doing what the coaches are asking me to do. It builds my confidence to know that [Doc Rivers] has trust in me and has faith in me to go out and show what I can do and go out and run this team."
Lately, Rivers has not been asking Dan Dickau to play a lot of point guard. The recent fortunes of Dickau are the biggest indication of Greene's climb up the depth chart. The coach has tried pairing Greene at point guard with Dickau at shooting guard, though the veteran has spent much of the exhibition season shooting below 30 percent from the floor. Although Dickau went 2 for 2 against New Jersey Saturday night in the Celtics' 90-69 win at Mohegan Sun, his defense remains a liability.
Whether or not Rivers admits it, he appears more comfortable with Greene at point guard. Dickau may have a "feel for the game," but Greene has stood out with his court vision and defense despite his lack of NBA experience.
"I've been getting into the office after games and the coaches have film for me to watch," said Greene, who joined teammates for an open practice last night at the TD Banknorth Garden. "They've been critiquing me and showing me some things I should go out and do better. And I just try to go out and do those things. I've got to go hard all the time, try to get the ball up the floor, and try to get guys in the right spots."
In almost 20 minutes against the Nets, Greene again made his presence known with assists (4) and steals (3). Greene's talent for defending emerged after he transferred from Florida to Louisiana-Lafayette. The 6-foot-5-inch point guard was named Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, leading the conference with 68 steals. The most impressive part was that Greene played his senior season with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Greene underwent surgery in early July to repair the break. The Celtics medical staff allowed Greene to start walking through drills in late September, but he was not fully cleared to play until a few days before the start of camp. That makes Greene's exhibition performances all the more surprising. He admits his conditioning is still not up to par and attributes recent back spasms to fatigue he must play through.
"I am surprised [by his play] for three reasons," said Rivers. "No. 1, he's a rookie. No. 2, no one had heard of him. No. 3, he's been injured. He didn't play the entire summer. For him to play as well as he's been playing is quite a surprise. I do worry about his health right now a little bit, having not played this summer. You can see him laboring at times. We have to get him in better shape if he's going to be a player for us."
At this point, it seems more a question of when, not if, Greene will be a major player for the Celtics.
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