SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Hidden Story in A.I.'s Denver Debut

was that a player the 76ers couldn't develop or find a meaningful role for, John Salmons, had a triple double for Sacramento in the Kings victory over the Nuggets last night, scoring 21 points, garnering 11 boards and dishing 10 assists. Click here to read about the debut, where there's precious little coverage of Salmons.

That would be the true irony, that one of the laundry list of players the 76ers couldn't work in with Iverson, thought weren't worthy of Iverson or whom Iverson thought weren't worthy all of a sudden blossoms having left Philadelphia. What Iverson will do is much more predictable -- he'll take a lot of shots and score a lot of points, and the question will be whether his efforts propel his new team to greater heights or keep them where they are. There is only one true upside to Iverson now -- if he gets you a title.

Meanwhile, Salmons has many more years left in his career. Now let's not get too giddy over Salmons' prospects. He did have five years in Philadelphia where he had his moments but overall looked like an end-of-the-rotation player, and just because he's strung together a few good games doesn't mean that he's displacing Shaun Livingston on the prospect list of potential greats or Steve Nash on the All-Star team. It could be just that he's had a few good games in a row. Or it could be that he's starting to blossom after years of being kept under wraps under several different coaches and a system that emphasized one player's skills at the expense of the rest of his teammates.

Still, John Salmons bears watching. After all, Raja Bell was almost an afterthought in the 76ers' run to the NBA Finals in 2001 and blossomed after he left the City of Brotherly Love, if for no other reason he found teams and systems that appreciated his gifts as a true shooting guard. Bell was not heralded at all coming out of college; Salmons was a first-round pick with a reputation for being a gamer who makes his teammates better. They're two different types of players, yes, but there's no reason while Salmons cannot emerge as a good starter, either.

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