In a move that everyone expected, shooting guard John Salmons opted out of the final year of his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, becoming an unrestricted free agent. Salmons will now be free to negotiate with any NBA team once the free agency period begins on Thursday.
Salmons declined the $5.8 million he was due with the Bucks for the 2010-11 season.
Many feel Salmons is destined for the Atlanta Hawks since Joe Johnson is most likely to leave via free agency as well. Bucks GM John Hammond has been adamant all offseason that he would very much like to see Salmons return to Milwaukee next season.
Salmons averaged 19.9 points a game with the Bucks after he was acquired in February from the Chicago Bulls. In his 30 games with Milwaukee, they went 22-8 with him in the lineup.
The Bucks traded for Chris Douglas-Roberts last week as a back-up option should they be unable to bring Salmons back to Milwaukee. Douglas-Roberts is among those that hope Salmons will be back in Milwaukee as well.
"If we play with each other, I'm going to learn a lot from him and I'm going to pick his brain," Douglas-Roberts said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I've seen his progression. I remember the days he was in playing behind (Allen) Iverson (in Philadelphia)."
"I will ask him how he handled everything and how he continued to get better. He definitely displayed mental toughness."
Resigning Salmons would be a giant coup for Hammond. He could make more leaving Milwaukee, but with the additions the team has made, keeping Salmons would make them one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.
Also expected to leave is back-up point guard Luke Ridnour. Rumors now have the New York Knicks as the destination for Ridnour. He would fit well with the up-tempo style the Knicks like to play.
Although resigning both would be ideal for the Bucks and their fans, it's imperative that they keep either Salmons or Ridnour. Brandon Jennings, for all his great play last season, is still a 20-year-old point guard entering his second season, and Chris Douglas-Roberts has only seen a limited number of starts in his career. Losing backcourt depth will severely hinder the progress already gained this offseason.
The Bucks were the surprise team in the Eastern Conference last season but if Salmons and Ridnour both leave, they could very likely see a regression back to a sub-par team and miss out on the playoffs.
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