The Sacramento Kings took plenty of grief for the draft day trade that brought John Salmons back to the capital city. While Salmons appeared to be a solid addition at a position of weakness, he has been anything but so far this season.
Until Thursday night.
Facing one of his toughest match-ups in the uber-athletic Gerald Wallace, Salmons came to play. After averaging just seven points through the Kings first 21 contests, Salmons came alive, setting new season highs in both points with 19 and rebounds with eight.
“I have confidence in him, ” Head Coach Keith Smart said in his postgame comments Thursday night. “ I believe in him and I know what he’s doing. I know he’s putting the work in and he’s working at his game. He’s a proud pro, so he’s going to work.”
Salmons is a humble, quiet professional who sets an example for his young teammates, dating back to the first day of training camp. Unfortunately, he has struggled this season. With the exception of missing a game due to illness, Salmons has started in every appearance, but scored double figures only five times and just once in the team’s last 12 contests.
While the Kings have gone overboard in isolation, Salmons has tried to fit in by hanging out on the perimeter in an attempt to stretch the defense. Unfortunately, Salmons has hit just 15 of his 59 three-point shots for a brutal 25-percent average. During a nine-game stretch this year, Salmons went 0-for-26 from behind the arc.
“I’m just going to keep working, keep getting shots up after practice,” Salmons said earlier this season. “I have a different offensive role. I can hit threes, but I’m not like a guy who stands there and shoots a lot of threes. I just have to have a different approach to the game and just try to work it out.”
This wasn’t an easy question for Salmons to answer. It was clear by his demeanor that this new role would be an adjustment for the veteran forward. Though he seemed tortured by the question, Salmons wasn’t blaming anyone but himself.
“It’s up to me,” Salmons said. ”I’m the one out there shooting it. It’s on me. It’s not on anyone else.”
So maybe John Salmons is coming around. Clearly the Kings hope so.
Going into the 2011-12 season, Salmons probably didn’t make any “must-have lists” among NBA general managers. However, he is a very versatile wing, who can defend and lead by example. A third of the way through the season, he has yet to get his stride or figure out where he fits in the Kings grand scheme.
Maybe Thursday’s win against Portland will prove to be the fix for what ails John Salmons.
James Ham is co-editor of Cowbell Kingdom. Follow him on Twitter.