SANTA BARBARA Veteran swingman John Salmons figured he was expendable.
The Kings hadn't used their amnesty waiver provision on him, so it seemed logical that his $7.6 million salary might be used to free salary cap space for this season.
"A little bit," said Salmons, when asked if he was surprised to still be with the Kings. "A little bit. I can't lie about that. But I'm good with being here, but I am a little surprised."
The Kings had been trying to upgrade the small forward position where Salmons, 33, finished last season as the starter.
The Kings traded for Luc Mbah a Moute but decided to keep Salmons, too.
"They just assured me I was still a part of the plans and I was going to be back this season," Salmons said about his conversations with the team's new management during the summer.
Coach Michael Malone wants Salmons to be a leader and set an example for younger teammates.
"I just want John to be the talented player he is," Malone said. "Work hard everyday and demand it from himself. And when he does that, start demanding it from his teammates."
Salmons has a $7 million option for next season, but it can be bought out for $1 million after this season, which makes him a prime candidate to be dealt to a team looking for salary cap space.
Regardless of the future, Salmons likes what he sees from the team's new ownership.
"I feel like the team is going in the right direction," Salmons said. "There's a new vibe around here. It's positive."
Salmons arrived at Tuesday's first practice of training camp at UC Santa Barbara with new tattoos covering both arms, including crosses and angels, inspired by an offseason trip and the Bible.
"I went to Rome and saw the Sistine Chapel and got inspired by that," Salmons said. "I wanted some tattoos anyway, so when I saw it, I decided to get this. This is Revelations 12. If you read Revelations 12, you'll understand it."
Position battles Outside of center DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings could have a new starter at every other position when the season opens Oct. 30.
And that helped increase the intensity of the first workouts.
"Guys brought it (Tuesday) and my challenge to them is it can't be just one practice," Malone said.
Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.