John Salmons is surprised to be back with Kings

Veteran swingman John Salmons was just as surprised as many fans when the Kings reacquired him from Milwaukee in a three-way trade on draft day last Thursday.

Salmons, who was playing perhaps the best basketball of his career for the Kings when they dealt him to Chicago in 2009, said returning to Sacramento didn't cross his mind.

He said he was planning to work out in Milwaukee and didn't have "any inclination I was getting traded or anything like that."

"That's what made it even more shocking," said Salmons, 31. "I just never thought I'd be back to a team I'd played for."

After trading him during their rebuilding effort, the Kings believe bringing Salmons back moves them closer to being competitive.

Salmons will be asked to provide stability at small forward, a position that has been problematic much of the past two seasons. The Kings have tried using veterans, and they've tried waiting for young players to assert themselves and play consistently.

Now it will be Salmons' turn to prove he deserves the job after a deal that sent guard Beno Udrih to the Bucks.

Despite injuring his knee before last season and dealing with a hip injury, Salmons played in 73 games, starting 70, and averaged 14 points.
The 6-foot-6 Salmons is expected to be an upgrade on offense and defense for the Kings, who were exploited in matchups on both ends of the court the past two seasons.

The Kings were at their best last season when they started Francisco García at small forward. But that came after Garcia began the season as a backup shooting guard and Donte' Greene and Omri Casspi took turns at small forward.

Barring injury, the Kings appear to be done with the turnover at the position. Salmons has three seasons worth about $24 million left on his contract. The team holds an option for another year at $7 million.

The Kings believe Salmons' ability to post up, make three-pointers and create his own shot will give them more options.

"When they play a small guard, we like to post them up," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "After people figured that out, they stopped putting small guards on Tyreke (Evans). They started putting them on our (small forwards) or Beno if he was in there."

Salmons said he has improved as a player since he left the Kings. When he signed with the Kings as a free agent in 2006, he had not averaged more than 30 minutes a game in four seasons with Philadelphia.

The Kings gave Salmons his first chance to play extended minutes, and by his second season with them, 2007-08, he was averaging 31.1 minutes to go with double-digit scoring (12.5 points) for the first time as a pro.

When Salmons was traded, he was averaging 18.3 points for the Kings. With the Bulls in 2009, he also averaged 18.3 points in the regular season and 18.1 points in the playoffs.

"That was a big moment in my career," Salmons said of the playoff run with Chicago. "Just by being in the playoffs and just playing in that environment."

After being sent to Milwaukee in 2010, Salmons again provided a boost for the playoff stretch, averaging 19.9 points in 30 regular-season games. Salmons averaged 17 points in the playoffs.

The Kings have been looking for more players who can excel under pressure. They found one in guard Marcus Thornton, who they intend to re-sign. Salmons could be another player who fits that mold.

Sacramento still must find another post player, especially if free agent Samuel Dalembert leaves, and needs to make moves to clear up the glut of small forwards behind Salmons.

Part of Salmons' job will be serving as a veteran leader, a role he said he's embracing.

"I feel like we have a lot of young talent," Salmons said. "It's just a matter of piecing it together."

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