A Different Breed

Posted by Sekou Smith

MILWAUKEE — Bucks guard John Salmons has seen the future.

And he knows it’s now, in the form of guys like Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and his former point guard with the Bulls Derrick Rose.

Salmons came into the NBA during an era when most players served an apprenticeship before moving into a starring role, even if they were high draft picks.

Not anymore. Not with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the Thunder in their series against the Lakers and so many other young players in starring roles on teams around the league.

“I was talking to somebody about this the other day,” Salmons said. “These young guys coming in here the way they have … I was older than them when I came into the league and I wasn’t ready. They’re just a different breed.”

***

***

Having played alongside both Rose and Jennings in the last year, Salmons continues to be amazed at the ability of the NBA’s youngest and brightest stars.

“They are just doing it,” Salmons said. “D. Rose is playing so well. From this year to last year he stepped his game up tremendously. He had a great year last year and now he’s even better. Brandon’s done the same thing. He’s had a great year. And I think he can do the same things. He’ll have a year under his belt and this playoff experience. The sky is the limit for him.”

He wasn’t done praising Jennings.

“Brandon handles himself as well as anybody I’ve been around,” Salmons continued. “Going straight from high school to overseas and then coming back to handle all the draft stuff, I think he grew up from it and learned from it.”

It’s a transition Salmons can’t imagine having conquered at the same age.

But the trend of players leaving high school for the NBA was still in its infancy in 1997, when Salmons led Plymouth-Whitemarsh High to a Pennsylvania sate title as a senior. He graduated a year after Kobe Bryant, another Philadelphia schoolboy star back then, who shocked the basketball world when he declared for the draft after winning the Pennsylvania state title in 1996.

“I remember when Kobe said he was going to the NBA,” Salmons said. “I was like, ‘what is he thinking?’ Clearly it worked out. I guess we all take different paths.”

Salmons went the four-year college route, at Miami before the Spurs selected him with the 26th pick in the 2002 draft.

But Salmons doesn’t believe some cosmic change turned the system upside down. What’s changed during his evolution from high school and college star to pro was the mentality of the players.

***

***

“I think the whole straight out of his school thing, once you see it and you know it’s a possibility, it gives you something to shoot for,” he said. “Coming up, I never dreamed about coming out of high school. So my development was probably a little slower, more mentally than anything. I think mentally they are more prepared than anything else. I think the inner drive of a player is accelerated when you know the league is a possibility at that young age. I think that’s definitely what it is. You see all these guys having success out of high school and it helps you start developing the mental aspect of the game [earlier].”

Jennings agreed, even though the rules have obviously changed since Kevin Garnett and Bryant pioneered this generation’s preps-to-pros movement. He circumvented the league’s age limit rule by going to Italy to play for a year after high school, and was roasted for the seemingly controversial move.

It worked out, though. The Bucks selected him with the 10th pick in the 2009 draft, validating his previously untraveled path to the league.

“I think hitting the eighth grade then you get to high school and AAU and you know,” Jennings said. “I played against Derrick Rose growing up. I’ve been playing against Kevin Durant since high school. So once you do things like that and get a chance to get on the court with them and compete with them, that’s where all the confidence comes from. Then you realize that they are in the league doing what they are doing, and I can compete with these guys, I know I can play in the league.”

That still doesn’t explain the instant impact of players like Kings point guard Tyreke Evans, the favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors, or any of the youngsters leading their teams.

“I think it really depends on the person and how he approaches the games,” Jennings said. ” Kevin Durant is a winner. Derrick Rose is a winner. Of course, I like to win. I’ve been saying that from the first day I got here. Winning is everything to me. So it just depends on the type of person you are, the player you are.”

Like Salmons said, they are a different breed.

And for some, the playoffs is their playground!

***

31 Comments

  1. Jay says:

    Nate sheild

    so your saying players in todays era are bigger and stringer…. and only play if they are bigger…thats a bunch of bull crap..

    There are only a few players I can name that are big. Lebron, Howard, Boozer, Nene, Milsap, Love, there are couple more but you get the pint..

    Durant isnt big at all, Evans isnt big, Curry isnt big, and many more.. I think your trying to get a little too complicated if you ask me… I mean your stating tha todays players are bigger. If so then who in the world today would be able to stop Karl Malone he was a beast Howard wouldnt even be able to handle him he would foul out in the first quarter…..

    I mean come on dude i doubt any of these players in the NBA today are any more stronger than they were 7 – 15 years ago. And id hat how some say there more athletic….. If this is the ase why hasnt there been any type of good Dunk contests recently they cant even seem to do better dunks than the old generation let alone think of any new good ones and yet there somehow more athletic.

    I mean yes there are a lot of players that are bbig now.. but guess what so was there many years before as there will continue to be many years later….

    And there is a simple reason as to why players score better now and are more successfull on the offensive sde now than in the past.. just look no further from when they changed the defensive rules (which i believe had something to do after MJ left). Since they changed the rules it made it much eaiser for players too score and do moves that would have been very hard to pull of back then… I mean when MJ left really wasnt nobody scoring like he was in an efficeint manner so they had to change something to keep fans interested next thing you know players start to score more, which is why you see more effective offensive players now than there ever was.

    • Nate Shields says:

      I never said anything about them being “stringer”…
      Find me a 6’10” shooting guard handling the ball like a point guard in the open floor and scoring 30 ppg while defensively shutting down a player of Kobe’s talent and we can dismiss Durant’s abilities.
      Evans is a 6’6″, 220 lb point guard at 20 years of age. Other than Magic, who’s been bigger, quicker, and more agile at that position?
      Curry…c’mon! You’re searching out the most obviously-undersized players – the ones no one thought were “big enough” to play in today’s NBA come draft time.
      True, Malone was a beast. So are many of today’s power forwards. Who would stop him? Not sure. Who could match him physically? Many centres, and to name a few power forwards: Elton Brand, David West, Tim Duncan, Pao Gasol, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire, Zach Randolph, Emeka Okafor, Kenyon Martin, Al Jefferson, Sean May, Nene, Antonio McDyess, Reggie Evans, etc. Let’s not forget that no one could match up with Malone or stop him during his career either, which is exactly my point.

  2. vencedor says:

    mutants!

  3. Dave says:

    There are many argument’s that you can put up and one of the biggest ones is the change of rules. There’s no hand checking allowed and fouls are so easy to come by in this current era. The little bumps in this current era are called fouls while before the 2000s they weren’t. Yes the physique of the new young breeds is better then that of older generations but they have more opportunities then the past generations. All the players now a days are making way more then Michael did throughout his career except for his last year in Chicago. If the past generations had as much opportunities as the current they would be just as big so you can’t compare that fact. And like the guy said earlier that lack of good centers in the NBA allows all those point guards to drive in. Other then Dwight how many legitimate good centers are there in the league. Defense in the league is getting worse and more calls are being made towards the offensive side.

  4. Jay says:

    Many here are complaining about how these players wouldn’t make it in the 80s or 90s. Time doesn’t flow backward; it’s time to think about the future these guys can bring on the table and not what it would have been if such and such played during w/e era. None of them would have any solid chance if they played in the MJ23 era, so stop dwelling in the past. Sure, i’m not saying NBA isn’t lacking good, efficient, defensive-oriented players, but nowadays, it’s less about the mind-grinding defense game and more about the up-tempo, strong physic offense. It’s the direction of the league and it’s where it will stay. Deal with it.

    • Nate Shields says:

      I disagree entirely. I’m certain that today’s athletes would dominate in Jordan’s era much the same as he did. Watch footage from his first couple of seasons in the L and notice how slow and unathletic the other 9 players on the floor appear in comparison. Only a handful of players in the 80’s had the athletic gifts to match (Dominique, Charles, Drexler, etc.). Today, even the benchwarmers have 40″ verticals and roadrunner speed.
      The talent and athleticism today is far greater than it was 20+ years ago. That applies to every major sport except baseball, wherein athleticism takes a back seat to timing and focus.
      You don’t think Lebron averages a triple-double in Oscar Robinson’s NBA? How about Chris Johnson and Adrian Pederson rushing for 2000 yards every year in OJ’s day.
      To me, the comparisons are useless and irrelevant as they can never be proven, nor would it make a difference anyway. The greats of yesteryear were great in comparison to their competition and today’s stars are much the same. Case closed.

  5. Lakers2010 says:

    I think these youngsters have something old school players lacked which are recognition and respect. The coaches, media, and fans have huge respect for players as well as expectations. So these kids take on the presure and some prevail (Evans, Rondo, DWade, Curry etc) while others have crashed (Oden, Big country, Bargnani stc). Back in the day youngsters had to pay their dues as Kobe did. Now they have that killer instinct as Durrant does and can do anything. They have no fears and go at veterans by using their youth and quickness . And we get impressed since we’re comparing them to 33 yr olds. The truth is experience in the NBA is overated like homecourt advantage is and if you have the will, which these youngsters do, you can surprise anyway as they have.

  6. johan says:

    i like chicken

  7. Lana says:

    Thunder rolls, and Durant is the real deal. Watch him a while, and you will see. Westbrook is a beast too.They spanked your wily ol’ veteran Kobe.

  8. Alex Walker says:

    rockin the rim like nobodies bizz

  9. Claude says:

    I love this game

  10. Tom says:

    What u find interesting from my point of view is the change from there being an enormous amount of great centers who could play offensively and defensively during the 90’s (especially) and before. Now, it seems there aren’t too many you could compare at all to The dream, Robinson, Ewing, Shaq (90’s Shaq) so forth. However, what i see is a lot of great point guards emerging and guys that can play any role from 2 – 4 quite well, that normally play as 3 men. Nearly every team has an emerging or a current star point guard. Though there were many previosuly, this is just a trend I have noticed –> Westbrook, Rose, Rondo, Curry, Brooks, Evans, Williams, Nash*, Paul, Collison, the list goes on for the number of terrific point guards going around and it seems more and more that some of these point guards have the ability to be a teams go to man when needed.
    In regards to youngsters: I support OKC and am thrilled with how they go about things, on and off the court. Durant at 21, is already and is going to be a phenomonal player, a scoring machine – expect to see him win more than a few scoring titles, while guys like Westbrook, Green, Ibaka and even Harden when he is on, provide so much energy and intensity i am excited to see this team develop even more, I just hope they stay together!!

    I agree somewhat with what the article says, but probably wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s that much different to what guys have done previously.

  11. Nate Shields says:

    Just realized I misspelt “thoroughbreds” and “sophomore.” So much for my first point.

  12. Nate Shields says:

    First of all, everyone posting comments here (and Mr. Smith himself) needs to proofread their remarks prior to publishing them. I’m amazed at the grammar here! I apologize if none of you are native english speakers, but invest in a spell-check at the very least.
    Secondly, your missing some major factors. This is only half the story.
    How about the physicality of these young players coming up these days. 20, even 10 years ago we weren’t seeing such physical specimens coming out of the high school ranks. The main factor: money. Since the contracts have blown up, so too have the players. Potential enhancement-drug use aside, the professional-style workouts and training regimens of blue chip high school prospects is way beyond where it’s been in the past. The top players are recognized at a young age and developed to perform at the top level…early. The result is demonstrated in the first/second year bodies of Lebron, Dwight, Derrick, Greg Oden, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudamire, etc.
    The article states that KG and Kobe were the pioneers of the high-school to pro leapers. What about Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone, and Shawn Kemp? These were all great players, and eventually became muscular beasts, but their rookie bodies pale in comparison to James or Howard at the age of 18. Kemp was called “the Manchild” in his first few years in the NBA, but he still looks younger than Lebron and Oden today, and that’s after 20 years of hard living and drug use. There absolutely is a new “breed” of young gun in the NBA today; thoroughbreads carrying the weight of their families, friends, coaches, and communities on their prematurely overdeveloped frames.
    If Mike were to come out of UNC as a sophmore next year, rather than back in 1984, he’d either be a whole lot bigger and stronger or he’d be watching from the sidelines until he was.

    Nate

    • Brumby says:

      Nate Shields,

      Also, you missed:

      – “Secondly, your missing some major factors. This is only half the story.” (It should be “YOU’RE”, not “YOUR”)

      – ‘misspelt’ is actually spelled ‘misspelled’

    • Jake says:

      I think you’re right about that. I play high school ball and in the offseason everybody is lifting and conditioning, and it seems like all the best players are paying hundreds (possibly thousands) of dollars a year to get private sessions with a personal trainer. Plus, I know a bunch of kids who don’t do steroids but they take different types of sports supplements and stuff. All of this combines to make kids bigger, faster, stronger, earlier.

  13. Earl says:

    Yeah they win a few games but they won’t win the series.

  14. Glava says:

    I read comment’s and agree with most.But today is different era in NBA.Comparation about 90’s and way of play is not suitable.New yongster’s are good,they will provide future for NBA.Comparation with KB,LBJ,KG are premature.Let’s live on time to tell.Thank’s

    • Paul says:

      (Aside from the mass of spelling errors on this site [(which makes your point far less compelling]), I do agree I think younger players today are given a far greater opportunity but I think that it is relative to the team that they’re playing on and the fact that they have taken up the chances that have been offered to them. If those younger players were at the Cavs, Mavs, Lakers, Suns etc they would be doing sixth man roles. OKC are playing Durant because 1. He is a very good player who is fulfilling his role like someone who has been doing the role for five or six years. 2. They don’t have anyone better than him in his role. if they had a Lebron he wouldn’t be playing, if they had a Dirk he wouldn’t be playing as much as what he currently is. The Bucks have a similar situation, as do The Bulls. What it has showed is that these players when it comes down it can match it with the best when it comes to the crunch, Sun and Mavs would have swept their respective opponents right now if they had a Durant or a Rose coming off the bench. It’s relative OKC have a good set of young players willing to take up the challenge, they still have a lot to learn but what they are showing is a lot of determination and threat. I think it’s relative they’re a amazing players but they are on teams where they are required and as such responded amazingly.

  15. shaker says:

    o.k these youngest players ( jennings, curry, tyreke, rose, durant, rondo ) are palying baskelball very good… but in other hand there are an old players playing basketball way better than them like james and kobe and nash and dirk ….
    whatever the youngest players need to practice to be great players like lebron james and nash and kobe.

  16. Gaz-it says:

    To the fact that NBA is lacking on pure defensive-minded players i agree,but give credit to these youngsters who literally put it all on their shoulders,I mean a whole franchise,a whole city,a whole division and even a whole side is expecting big because of these guys.Still they have a long way to go : AI never made it,King James is running outta patience,KG (my favorit player of all time) had to run a long road to finally meet the Truth and Jesus with tremendous talents and blessing from GOD.NBA itself is a BREED never old and never new considering the fact that there are still new stuff in those good-old -days and a lot of old stuff in the new days. it’s so passionate that it can confuse you and that why I LOVE THE GAME

  17. dj says:

    I agree. When i played as a guard you knew you were gonna get knocked out of the air if you came to the hole. Now it seems like the rules allow a more uptempo and flashy game. Some of these kids couldnt hang with Mchale, Mcdaniels, Mahorn, Cooper, Lucas or Barkley.

  18. jaja says:

    i agree, but nowadays nba is very easy to plays . nba don,t have great defenser .

    • Mike says:

      I agree with the comments. Today’s league lacks great defense. Change the rules and bring them back tot he 90’s. Then we’ll see how ‘great’ these kids are.

      • Jake says:

        You’re all retarted if you think its easy to play in the NBA. You’ve just been fed a bunch of bull from NBA-haters. Go watch a game, and then go play a game and tell me it’s easy to play in the NBA.

  19. glenn says:

    this is nothing new, KB, DW, LJ and iverson did all this stuff even bettter than these guys. Its just a new Era for the next generation. Agree with Wally.

  20. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by yup, Lower East Scribe and N. Monroe, Sekou Smith. Sekou Smith said: John Salmons talks about NBA young'uns, 'a different breed.' http://bit.ly/cykzG8 […]

  21. Yhanz says:

    The new era of basketball has begun. The youngsters nowadays played a great basketball. Now they are in playoffs what they did in the elimination was much expected to be in high morale coming in the playoff.

  22. wally says:

    i dont think tis a different breed, i think these youngsters are special and are reigning in a new era of basketball, players like jennings, curry, tyreke, rose, durant, rondo play amazing while carrying thier team.