Bucks hopefully await Salmons’ next move

Veteran guard was difference-maker in 2010

By Truman Reed

John Hammond
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
John Salmons has a big decision to make during the offseason.

What will Johnny do?

Coming off their most successful season since 2000-01, the Milwaukee Bucks have entered another pivotal offseason - one that figures to have a profound impact on whether or not they can sustain the prosperity they enjoyed in 2009-10 and build upon it.

Among the most significant questions that will be answered before the team convenes for training camp is the one mentioned above, referring to John Salmons and his choice of destination for 2010-11.

Salmons, 30, has a player option within his current contract for $5.8 million for the upcoming season, which gives him several choices.

He could maintain the status quo and play for the Bucks next season.

He could choose to opt out of his current deal and become a free agent, which would enable him to negotiate with all NBA teams - including the Bucks - on July 1 when free agency begins.

He could sign a contract extension with Milwaukee.

However the saga unfolds, one thing is clear: Over the course of his eight NBA seasons, Salmons has never been a greater difference-maker than he was during the games in which he wore a Milwaukee Bucks uniform in 2010.

Following their acquisition of Salmons from the Chicago Bulls in a February 18 deal that just beat the trading deadline, the Bucks went 22-8, earned the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs and pushed the third-seeded Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the teams' first-round series -- their first playoff foray since 2004.

In Salmons' 30 contests with Milwaukee, he averaged a team-leading 19.9 points, led the team in scoring on 16 occasions and averaged 17 points in the playoff series against Atlanta.

Salmons shot 46.7 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three-point territory and 86.7 from the free-throw line.

"He did a great job for us," Bucks General Manager John Hammond said. "He was integral in where we ended up, the fact we won 46 games, made it to the playoffs and went to seven games (against Atlanta in the playoff series). Give him a lot of credit for what he did for our organization."

Bucks head coach Scott Skiles echoed the sentiments of the NBA's 2009-10 Executive of the Year.

"The pickups of Jerry (Stackhouse) and John (Salmons) were, I don't even know what to say about them, they were huge," Skiles said. "Especially John. It all kind of fell into place."

The Bucks brass would certainly like to see Salmons once again occupying Bucks uniform No. 15 next season, but the ball is in his court.

Before Salmons began his offseason, he was asked for his impressions of the time he spent with the Bucks and in Milwaukee.

"It's definitely been a great couple of months, being here," Salmons said. "Everybody's been great. Milwaukee as a city has been great. The fans have been great. My teammates have been great. It's a great locker room. It's good to be around the team and the coaches. It's a really good coaching staff.

"When you get traded, you really never know what to expect. So you just go in and hope everything goes well. It's a totally new situation and the grass is not always greener on the other side. Chicago wasn't going well, but I came in here and turned my whole season around. We made a great playoff run. We had an opportunity, but just didn't pull it out. It's been a good time."

Like many Bucks fans, Salmons wonders what might have happened If Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut hadn't been injured and had been in the lineup for the playoffs.

"We made a run in the playoffs without `Bogues' and made it to a Game 7," Salmons said. "We made it to a Game 6 in our building with the opportunity to win the series. To have him (Bogut) back next year, we can become a real threat to teams in the East. We'll see what happens."

Salmons was still using the word "we" after the season ended because he enjoyed the chemistry that was so paramount to the Bucks return to NBA prominence last season.

"It's a great locker room," Salmons said. "It's good to have teammates who you want to be around. There was never a time this season where I felt tension between teammates or anything like that.

"It felt like everybody was always on the same page and everybody got along on and off the court."

Even though no one knows where Salmons will be a few months from now, he talked about the Bucks future prospects, so Milwaukee fans may take some encouragement from that.

Salmons believes the Bucks are capable of reaching the 50-victory plateau next season. Not so long ago, that might have seemed like a monumental challenge. Now, though, a 50-victory season would only amount to four more wins than the team achieved last season.

"Fifty wins ... I feel like that shouldn't even be a question for us," Salmons said. "That should be something we know we are capable of doing.

"You never know what happens with injuries and all that stuff, but that should be a realistic goal that we should reach for."

Time will tell if a pair of two-letter words -- "us" and "we" - loom larger than any of the others John Salmons spoke during his last meeting of the spring with the Bucks media.