John Salmons has been missing in action for more than a week. The veteran swingman has been out of the Sacramento Kings’ lineup dealing with personal matters according to the team. But when he does return, what might his role be this 2012-13 NBA season?
In his lone appearance this preseason, Salmons saw significant time off the Kings’ bench, playing 22 minutes in the six-point win over the Phoenix Suns. His stat line wasn’t impressive – six points on three of 11 shooting, four assists, a block and a turnover.
But what was interesting about his outing was how Keith Smart used the Kings’ oldest player. Salmons checked in early in the second quarter for Marcus Thornton and played in the backcourt for a significant amount of that game.
“I saw the way he played once I got him with the ball in his hands as a playmaker,” the Kings head coach said following their last practice before a recently concluded three-game road trip. “Going back to when he first came in the league, he was pretty much a point guard.”
This is familiar territory for the Kings and Salmons. When the 32-year-old swingman lost his place in the starting lineup to Isaiah Thomas last year, Smart used Salmons as his lead guard off the bench. He eased the burden of playmaking duties from then-rookie Jimmer Fredette, who struggled to run the Kings’ offense.
If Salmons does see any time in the Kings’ frontcourt this year, Smart would like to use him in more screen-and-roll situations.
“You really don’t play with a small forward that handles the ball in the pick-and-roll,” Smart said. “So the coverage is always a little bit different.”
Salmons was a disappointment last year and has drawn the ire of Kings’ fans dating back to his first run with Sacramento six years ago. Smart, though, seems optimistic about the versatility the veteran guard/forward adds to his team’s depth.