John Salmons aiming to bounce back after struggling in opener

After Tuesday night’s opening win against Orlando, Pelicans small forward John Salmons stood off in the corner near his stall in the locker room at the Smoothie King Center and looked subdued instead of celebratory.

On the other side of the room, backup guard Jimmer Fredette had the same look. He showered and dressed quickly after the Pelicans’ impressive 101-84 victory.

Neither felt like celebrating, although power forward Anthony Davis and center Omer Asik combined for 40 points, 34 rebounds and 14 blocks in their first regular-season game paired together.

Salmons and Fredette, who were both signed this summer as free agents, didn’t make much of an impact to spark the bench, though.

In just more than nine minutes, Salmons went scoreless but had three fouls. Fredette missed all six shots attempts and scored two points.

Besides backup forward Ryan Anderson’s 22 points, the Pelicans’ entire bench was pretty much a no-show.

They combined on 3-of-13 shooting for 11 points. Yet, Salmons and Fredette are both aiming to be more reliable this Saturday when the Pelicans play the Dallas Mavericks, a team Coach Monty Williams said is one of the deepest in the league.

''It’s always tough when you don’t shoot the ball well,'' Fredette said. ''But when you play long enough, it’s going to happen at some point. You never like it as a shooter. But the good thing about it is that I got good shots. Some of them just wasn’t failing. But I tried to impact the game in other ways. It was all about getting the win and move on to the next one.''

In the preseason, Fredette showed ability to make shots. He shot a team-high 50 percent from 3-point range despite playing sparingly in the final two games. But he was unable to display much against the Magic, going 0-of-3 from 3-point range.

Anderson made 3-of-6 3-pointers, but rest of the Pelicans’ reserves combined to miss all five attempts. Guard Austin Rivers also struggled to make an impact off the bench offensively. He scored seven points but missed five of seven shots from the field, 0-of-2 from 3-point range.

''There are things in that first game that we looked at on film today that we’ve got to get better at,’’ Williams said. ''Like I always say, if the second unit can maintain or increase whether it be scoring or getting stops, it helps you a ton.''

It still appears Salmons is tentative and unsure on what he exactly needs to concentrate his efforts around to make a bigger impact.

At 34-year-old, Salmons was signed to a one-year, $2 million this summer to emerge as a veteran leader. He also came in as a 36.6 percent shooter from 3-point range. But he mostly struggled in the preseason, making only 21.4 percent of his shots from the field.

Salmons was a rookie during the 2002-03 season and a teammate of Williams when they played for the Philadelphia 76ers. But it has taken Salmons time to figure out Williams' system and he doesn't appear fully comfortable yet.

''We all continue to grow as a team and figure out how to play with each other,’’ Salmons said. ''We’re going to figure it out as we go. It was the first game of the season and we’re still jelling as a team. My role is to help the team win, that’s what I’m trying to do.''

Williams still believes Salmons will make an impact this season. He likes his versatility to play either small forward or shooting guard and leadership capabilities.

''He makes a lot of plays that may not show up on a stat sheet,''Williams said.''It sounds like a cliché, but he’s a bit of a head out there for us with that second group with Austin, Jimmer and Luke (Babbitt). John kind of calms them down a little bit.''

Despite heading into the second game, Williams is not set on his bench rotation. Although he paired Fredette and Rivers together in the backcourt against the Magic, it could change from game to game based on matchups, Williams said after Thursday's practice.

Regardless, the Pelicans is going to need more than just their starters to knock off the Mavericks, who emerged last season as the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.  

The Mavericks have plenty of scoring capability with their backups. Against the Spurs, guard Devin Harris came off the bench and scored 17 points and had five assists.

''Austin has the capability of guarding both point guards and shooting guards, Jimmer probably not so much,’’ Williams said. ''I think matchups and how guys are playing will dictate that. Also, we can go with John and Luke with Austin. It gives you the ability to switch more.''

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