I don’t get to watch the Kings as much as I’d like. I usually catch them when they’re in LA or when I’m visiting family in Sac and that’s about it. Most of my opinions are formed by box scores and those on this board. So I went in to the recent back-to-back with the Lakers expecting Salmons to dominate the ball and turn the offense into an ugly playground version of “stand around and watch the guy who refuses to pass”. To me though, the result was completely different. Salmons looked legit. He looked like the only guy on the Kings who was capable of creating his own shot. And he looked exactly like Latrell Sprewell.
Watching Salmons, I forgot how good Spree was…I mean, the guy put up 24/6/5 the season before he choked out PJ. There was a certain raw aggression to his game though. You never knew if he was going to dunk on you or punch you in the face. I don’t see that with Salmons. But I do see everything else. The ridiculously quick first step. The ability to get in the lane against any defender. The ability to finish once he’s there. The streaky jumper. The lanky defensive pressure. The ability to hang with Kobe on both ends of the floor. Even their stats match up. When Spree was 29, he put up 18/4/4 to go with 1.3 steals per game. Salmons at age 29…19/4/3 and 1.2 steals per game.
I understand why Salmons gets some heat for his tendency to pound the rock. It’s not fun to watch. At all. But to me, he’s extremely valuable to the Kings. Maybe more valuable than anyone on the squad. Because he’s the only guy that can get his own shot. Take Martin for example. The guy is highly efficient. Scores at a ridiculous rate. But he needs help. And that’s why the Princeton offense is perfect for him. He comes off a baseline pick or takes a handoff from Miller at the high post and he’s got a step on his man. But what happens when Miller is gone? Will Spence be able to handle that roll? Maybe, maybe not. What happens when defensive pressure tightens in the playoffs? What happens when there’s not enough time to run through an entire set and you have to get a shot off with :05 on the clock? Is Martin capable of that? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that Salmons is.
This probably dives into some larger issues. Namely, is the Princeton offense right for the Kings? Is Petrie’s “player” right for the Kings? Yes, they’re both enjoyable to watch. Much more than any offense in the league. But ultimately, they’ve yet to prove capable of winning titles. And I don’t know that they ever will. At some point in every game (and especially in the playoffs), the NBA comes down to me vs you. Iso or pick & roll. Who can get a shot…who can make a stop. And that doesn’t play well with the Princeton “team first” concept. You need stud players who are capable of beating players on both sides of the ball. And while he’s not on the level of Kobe or LeBron by any means…Salmons can at least hang with those guys. I can’t say the same for anyone else on the Kings.
To be honest with you, I don’t know what I’m advocating with this post. I’m not sold that Salmons is the “guy” for the Kings. I’m not sold that Martin and Petrie need to either go or stay. I’m not sold that the Kings need to run pick & roll every time down the court. But I am sold that Salmons reminds me of Spree without the craziness. And that’s a pretty decent place to start.