DALLAS - It was an unofficial annual affair, one that Mike Bibby could have done without.
The former Kings point guard would often struggle with his shot in the preseason, serving up enough clankers over the course of a few games that the media - myself included - would eventually come asking "What's wrong?" Bibby, playing his part in the ritual, would remind us all that it was still exhibition play and that he would be just fine. More often than not, he was right.
Yet there is no such precedent for John Salmons, who is just learning how to handle life as a regular starter. And within those parameters, there is only this: four games played, 14-of-47 shooting (29.7 percent) overall while averaging 30.5 minutes. More specifically, he has had one solid shooting game against Oklahoma City and three stinkers (1 of 9 against Portland, 4 of 15 against the Lakers and 4 of 15 against Houston).
In the matter of a few days, it could mean nothing or it could mean something. Salmons himself said in training camp that the tricky part about playing in the preseason is this unfair reality: play well, and people shrug because it's preseason; play poorly and people start to panic even though it's preseason. He was relentlessly hounded Friday night by the man whose job he took over in Ron Artest, and it won't get much easier tonight against the Mavericks with Josh Howard on his hip.
Still, no one is panicking within the Kings' locker room or front offices. They're not within a halfcourt shot of even losing a few minutes of sleep over it just yet. But they are eager to figure out the smartest way to get the most out of Salmons, and those answers must come fairly soon if they are to avoid a horrendous start to the regular season.
Does he need more freedom to hold the ball because of his style, or should he be asked to conform to the ball-moving ways just like the rest of the bunch? Does he need a green light to chuck away until he heats up again, or does the red light need be put up more often to avoid falling into deep pot holes that they can't get out of?
Bibby used to figure it out on his own. The Kings hope Salmons does, too. - Sam Amick