When the Kings reacquired John Salmons before last season, management hoped he would be a veteran leader on a roster with many young players.
Salmons had never filled such a role. But now he says he's more comfortable speaking his mind this season.
"Last year was the first team I was like the oldest person on the team," Salmons said after practice Tuesday. "It was a new experience for me. I really didn't want it. I really didn't embrace it."
That's changed this season.
Salmons called a players-only meeting last month after a bad loss to Atlanta. After Saturday's 35-point defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers, Salmons said the players were to blame, not the coaching staff.
"This year, I felt like it was something I had to do, particularly with how the season is going," Salmons said. "Hopefully I can continue to get better at it and we can continue to get better as a team."
Salmons is in his 11th season, the most NBA experience of any King. The only other player with at least 10 seasons is seldom-used forward Travis Outlaw.
Though being more of a leader is still new to him, Salmons is adjusting.
"It's something that I embrace," he said. "By embracing it, I'm starting to enjoy that role."
Kings coach Keith Smart said he noticed a change in Salmons beginning in training camp. When Salmons returned from time off for the birth of his third child, he became more vocal.
"When he came back this year, one thing I noticed was, wow, John is talking a lot more because he didn't talk a lot unless you engaged him," Smart said. "You can see that he's talking more. He's comfortable with where he's at."
Smart doesn't mind Salmons speaking his mind. He welcomes another voice repeating his message.
"It's been good to see he's communicating and talking to the guys and not being afraid to say what he really feels," Smart said. "And that's what we need on this team."
Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Chuck Hayes are the veterans most likely to point out what's going wrong.
"We have veterans, but we want them to be a little more vocal, because coaches can only do so much," Smart said. "You get more out of the words that I'm going to say when one of your teammates say the same thing."
Salmons has stressed accountability to help the Kings turn the season around.
"We're the ones out there on the court," Salmons said. "I feel like this string of losses we've just had, particularly that last one, it's starting to dawn on us that it's on us."
Evans expected back Smart said guard Tyreke Evans should be available for tonight's game against Toronto.
Evans, who missed the last two games with a bruised left knee, was held out of parts of practice Tuesday but had a good workout, Smart said.
"He came in and did some treadmill work, did some sprint work on the floor and then got up his shots," Smart said. "I just wanted to get him to where he did some change of direction on the floor and ran into someone, but I think he'll be ready to go."
Evans has been the Kings' best player recently. In his last eight games, he's averaging 17.3 points and shooting 52.5 percent.