Jeff Teague sat for a quick interview with Peachtree Hoops to catch up on his thoughts on how things have progressed during his rookie year.
When the Hawks drafted Jeff Teague with the 19th pick in the 2009 draft, there were mixed thoughts about his arrival. Some hoped it would not be a reprisal of the Acie Law selection of two drafts earlier, where Acie either never got the chance or didn't have the ability to earn playing time at the NBA level. Others were hoping for a different pick altogether; either lamenting passing on another big such as DeJuan Blair or agreeing on a PG, but hoping maybe for a move to get Ty Lawson (who went one pick earlier to the Denver Nuggets, who had traded into that spot to take him) or a proven college player like Darren Collison. Still other saw the energy and athleticism Teague displayed at Wake Forest and got excited about a potential future starting point guard for the Hawks.
There is a flip side to expectations--fans and coaches have them, but so do the players, and the failure to realize those expectations can, in some circumstances, slow or eliminate t the growth of that player. A player must be given the opportunity to feel as if he is learning, getting better in focused areas, and not getting swallowed up in the quick pace of the NBA.
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"Everything is so much faster, much more athletic," said Teague. "I knew everybody in this league was going to be really good. That’s why they get paid the big bucks."
One thing that is different for every rookie is that adjustment made coming from college to the pros. "I thought it would be tough, but I thought I would be a little more easier being on a veteran team and I would learn a lot more things faster," says Teague. " I mean it’s still difficult being a rookie, you want to play but you have to wait your turn cause you have veteran guys on the team that’s really good. So it’s been rough but I’ve been learning every day."
Talking more about that learning process, Teague says he has had good tutoring in the form of the seasoned Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford.
"Jamal, man, on the offensive end gives me offensive tips to get easier buckets, how to get my shot off and things like that."
About Bibby, Teague remarks, "Mike, as a point guard, tells me about things like the pick and roll situations, how to get onto guys hips and things you don’t really think about playing in college but really helps you in the NBA."
Bibby responds: " When I guard Jeff he’s a lot faster than me. So I gotta show him the grabbing, the holding, and the stuff that the refs don’t see. He picked it up quick and started doing it to me. I’m like man, quit holding me, and he says 'You’re doing the same thing to me!'"
Teague says the journey is ongoing, and he works daily on the wisdom that Crawford/Bibby has imparted on him as well as working on different shots, where to be on the floor, and other things that helps him be more effective on the floor.
Teague has a natural athleticism that has already gotten the attention of Hawks fans. He is hard for defenses to stay in front of and, as he learns about finishing his drives and getting his shot off, he will be even more effective on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively he continues to learn the nuances of the position, but one natural play Teague regularly makes is the trail block---where Teague sneaks up on a breakaway player and blocks the ball from behind using his surprising vertical leap.
"I do love it," laughed Teague. "Everybody thinks because I’m a shorter guy on the floor that they can take it up soft and stuff. That gives me an opportunity to get a block."
As his rookie season winds down, Teague has already shown the fans he is an exciting part of the immediate future. How much he makes an impact, whether or not he can be a starting caliber PG in the league all remains to be determined.
"I had to play a lot of minutes coming into the league because Lee Mayberry broke his foot," said Bibby. "Jeff is getting to watch the game and learn a lot more than I ever got to, and I think that's going to help him in the long run."