The first time I heard a Kings coach mention Donte' Greene as a defensive player was in July 2009.
I was speaking with Mario Elie, who had been just hired as an assistant coach with the Kings.
Elie made his NBA career on defense and said with Greene's size (6-foot-10) and athleticism that Greene should be able to be a reliable defender every night, but he thought Greene was more concerned about scoring.
Even though Greene said he would be a focused defender, that as never how things worked out conistently.
For the two-plus seasons under Paul Westphal, Greene spent time as the designated defender and a lot of and sitting at the end of the bench.
Kings coach Keith Smart is giving Greene the opportunity to be that player agains, which began this week at Minnesota when Greene was asked to defend Michael Beasley and was on Ricky Rubio late in the game.
Greene was asked to do what he could to slow Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Thursday night in the Kings' 106-101 win at Power Balance Pavilion.
This began after Greene didn't play in three consecutive games.
"I went to him quietly," Smart said. "And said 'Hey I want to look at some other people during this time. I need you to come in and do what you can do well. I looked at some tape, some video of you guarding Beasley. Defensively you can be our stopper. You can be our guy.'"
Greene didn't play in Monday's win at New Orleans. After that game Smart let Greene know he had plans for him.
"He just told me after our game in New Orleans that he needed me," Greene said. "Get back on my horse as that defensive guy. So I've been trying to stay ready, staying on top of my conditioning making sure that when my number's called I'm going to be ready."
Smart believes finding a player that can defend all the perimeter spots and even power forwards is key to a team.
So Greene is getting the chance to show he can make an NBA career out of defending.
"If you can find that utility guy and you can count on him every night," Smart said. "The team knows he's your utility guy so he's not coming in to score."
Smart said he told Greene to not settle for jumpers and to drive to the basket. A lot of times the easiest place to find Greene on the floor was standing outside the three-point line waiting for a jumper.
Greene said he's worked with the coaching staff on getting to the basket and that paid off in the fourth quarter when Greene drove to the rim and was fouled and made two free throws to give the Kings a 100-99 lead with 1:05 left in the game.
"It's transferring over to the game for me," Greene said. "The game itself is slowing down for me. Fourth year in the league now, I'm starting to see things that I hadn't seen before. So the opportunity is there, I've just to keep working."