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    The Kings' Jason Thompson puts up a first-half shot against Luis Scola of the Suns on Monday.

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Salmons' return still up in the air

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 - 5:54 pm

PHOENIX – The Kings are uncertain when John Salmons will return to the team. When he does, he'll have to play his way back into the rotation.

Salmons has missed the last five preseason games, including Monday night's 103-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center.

Salmons was excused from the team for personal reasons.

"No timetable," Kings coach Keith Smart said of Salmons' return. "Just in communication with him, and I told him just take your time and come back when you're ready."

In Salmons' absence, James Johnson, Francisco Garcia and Travis Outlaw appear to have cornered the minutes at small forward with Tyreke Evans still playing there when the Kings go with a smaller lineup.

Salmons began last season as the starting small forward but was benched while mired in a season-long slump.

When Salmons does return, Smart expects he will need time to catch up with teammates and to get into NBA shape.

"You can go run on a treadmill at the Y, (but) it's just not the same," Smart said. "We've got to get his conditioning back to where it was when he left and then see what he does once he starts playing."

Smart figures Salmons is working out and that he won't return totally out of shape. The coach just doesn't want to throw him back into a game before Salmons is ready.

"I'm sure as a veteran he's doing (what it takes) to keep himself going," Smart said.

Cisco rises – One of the things the Kings are most pleased about this preseason is Garcia's shooting.

The Kings are looking for players who can be consistent threats from the perimeter to create more space on offense.

Garcia has shot well in practice and in preseason games.

Through Monday's game, Garcia has taken 19 shots in the preseason.

Fifteen of those shots were three-point attempts, and Garcia has made six (40 percent). He missed both of his three-point attempts against the Suns.

After shooting a career high 39.8 percent from three-point range in the 2008-09 season, Garcia has watched his three-point percentage decline.

He shot 29 percent from behind the arc last season, his worst rate since his rookie season of 2005-06 (28.5 percent).

Regular-season preparation – Smart had said he'd use the final two preseason games to begin easing the minutes played by his main players. That was the case Monday as training camp invitees Tony Mitchell, Hamady N'Diaye and Willie Reed all played in the first half.

The Kings end the preseason Thursday against the Lakers in San Diego.

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