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The War is Here

In his virgin campaign in a Sacramento shirt last year, we found out a lot about John Salmons: He's nice guy and a seemingly good, quiet teammate. He can get to the rim on most defenders. He's not the best shooter. He's a surprisingly stout defender on smaller, quick guards and a middling rebounder. He can't throw an entry pass and rarely gets an assist not executed off penetration or the fast break. You can learn a lot about players by watching them for 75 or so games.

Who knew he'd be the fiery squabbler who "tossed the first grenade" in the war between Reggie Theus and his Kings?

Sam Amick of The Bee further reveals what happened after the Minnesota loss Wednesday.

According to numerous sources close to the team, Salmons took Theus' criticism of the team personally, and a personal challenge of sorts from Theus led to Salmons' early exit from the locker room before the coach was done addressing his team.

Salmons walked the Target Center hallways for about two minutes with Artest and the team's security staff trailing him, while - according to the sources - Theus said in the locker room that Salmons would be fined for his actions.

Based on this vague structure of a fight, you can start to understand both sides. Theus clearly will not be taking sh*t from anyone, for better or worse. He wasn't bluffing like Eric Musselman did. Reggie is always right.

But holy hell, Salmons is watching his career slip on to the wrong path right before his eyes! He played his tail off -- not perfect of course, but he played hard -- and he gets a) demoted and b) called out for not immediately adjusting his game properly? This is a gifted player who struggled for four years to get consistent playing time under the most domineering offensive star of our time, a guy whose on-court fortunes improved only marginally when freed from Allen Iverson and exiled to Sacramento. He reached his potential for exactly seven games, and it slips away. And then he gets called out for not adjusting better. You understand why Salmons would be upset, yes?

I have little doubt any more that Reggie has enough sternum to destroy any construction of resistance in the locker room. But guess what? It's not a victory to make everyone hate you. Gregg Popovich isn't a four-time champion because everyone on his team hates him. He's a champion because every one of his players respects the hell out of him. Jerry Sloan doesn't demand his players become Hitler Youth -- he commands utmost respect from his guys. You think John Salmons respects Coach Theus more because of this battle? You think Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia and Quincy Douby will go the extra mile to play Reggie's way now? There's a huge difference between leader and fascist. You can be a disciplinarian without being irrational. And, unless Salmons really was completely out of line -- which doesn't appear so -- Reggie has taken a step back with his team.

Of course, I don't pretend to know what's going on in those players' minds. I've just watched enough basketball to know hard-asses don't always get the last victory.