Sacramento Kings Head Coach Keith Smart has a rule when it comes to distributing minutes. If you don’t play in the first half, you’re not likely to see action after halftime.
However, the second-year coach makes exceptions to that rule on certain occasions, which was the case last night when he played John Salmons for the first time this season.
With 10 minutes remaining in the final frame, the veteran small forward checked in for Tyreke Evans and proceeded to play five minutes off the Kings’ bench. He scored just one point, but recorded a steal and a block and provided some defensive stability as the Kings fought to stay in the game.
“When you’re activated you always have to be ready,” the 32-year-old swingman told Cowbell Kingdom following yesterday’s 11-point defeat to the San Antonio Spurs. “So I just had the mentality of however many minutes I get, I’m just going to go out there and play hard and try to help the team win.”
With rookie Thomas Robinson suspended for two contests and second-year wing Tyler Honeycutt recently assigned to the D-League, the Kings are currently playing slightly shorthanded. And with limited practice time before tomorrow’s match-up against the Los Angeles Lakers, Smart saw last night as an opportunity to work Salmons back into the mix.
“Had he not missed the time that he did, he would have been right in the middle of what we’re trying to get done ” Smart said in his postgame press conference. “But I just wanted to get him a chance to get on the floor, get his wind up a little bit and I thought he did a good job after being out for so long.”
Salmons left the Kings midway through training camp last month for personal reasons. It was later found that the veteran forward went home to Philadelphia to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple’s third child.
He rejoined the team following the season opener in Chicago. And before yesterday’s loss to the Spurs, Salmons hadn’t seen live-game action since the Kings’ first preseason contest against the Phoenix Suns. But now that he’s finally gotten his feet wet in regular season play, Salmons says he’s ready to contribute.
“However many minutes I get, that’s what I’m gonna play.” Salmons said. “(Whether it’s) 35 or it’s five, I’ll play the minutes I get. I’ll work my way back, try to get comfortable, shaking off the rust and just play basketball. That’s all you can really do.”
Salmons and the Kings left for Southern California this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s match-up against the Lakers. Gametime between the two teams is set for 6:30 pm PT at the Staples Center.