John Salmons debuted at guard for the Milwaukee Bucks in Detroit on Feb. 19. He led the team to a 91-85 win that night with 19 points and made three of six from three-point range.
The Bucks went on to win their next six games, and now have won 17 of their last 21. Salmons has led the team in scoring 10 times, twice eclipsing 30 points.
Thanks to that run, the Bucks are now a legitimate presence near the top of the NBA's Eastern Conference standings. They have a tentative hold on the fifth playoff spot (out of eight), with a 41-32 record going into Wednesday's game in Cleveland; that's a vast improvement over 2009, when they were 32-44 on April 1.
When sharpshooter Michael Redd went down with a season-ending knee injury in early January, prevailing wisdom had the Bucks missing the playoffs again, possibly struggling to finish the season with 30 wins. But general manager Larry Hammond immediately signed 35-year old Jerry Stackhouse, a two-time All-Star who had been inactive since last season. He then traded reserves Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick to the Bulls for Salmons and some draft picks.
Both Stackhouse and Salmons have quickly gelled with rookie phenom Brandon Jennings in the backcourt, a development that has taken some of the pressure off center Andrew Bogut, who is playing some of the best basketball of his five-year career. The result is not only meaningful post-season basketball in Milwaukee, but a nucleus of good young players to build on for next year.