Jeff Teague is back in Atlanta and, while his role will be different in his second tour of duty with the franchise, the veteran point guard appears eager to get things started in what he refers to his “second home.”
Though much of the attention of Saturday was paid to the upcoming game against the Detroit Pistons, Teague didn’t hold back when discussing his love for his new (and former) city. Teague referred to Atlanta as “one of the best cities in the world” and indicated that he still owns property in the city after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the Hawks.
“The people are great,” Teague said. “The fans were always great to me. The people in the organization, from my first year to my last, were great. And I just love it.”
Ultimately, Teague will be judged by his on-court contributions but, considering his history with the team, it wasn’t a surprise to see him jovial upon arrival. Still, Teague took things to even a higher level, actually saying that he “kind of plotted” his way back to the Hawks and expressing flat-out joy when he was informed by his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, that he’d be returning.
“They said ‘Atlanta,’” Teague said when asked how he was told of the news. “And I was like, ‘I can’t be this lucky.’”
From there, Teague went on to say that the excitement of the moment was “kind of hitting (him) all right now” when he was being asked questions. Moments later, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce passed along that, in more private conversations, Teague’s energy was similar.
“He played his best basketball here in the city of Atlanta,” Pierce said of Teague. “I talked to him yesterday, I said ‘how’d the physical go.’ He said ‘good, I’m just going home now’… he still has a home here. He spent the majority of his career here, is beloved here. It’s a great opportunity to come back to somewhere where you’ve had success.”
Teague was a central piece of the best team in Hawks history and, during his initial media availability, he said that the 2014-15 squad was the best team he’d been associated with in his career. Still, he expressed excitement about the current group, while adding that he can be useful to it.
“I just think those guys are really talented and could be really special,” Teague said of Atlanta’s young core. “I guess a couple more veterans in the locker room and some guys they can lean on, on the court, I think it can be a really special team.”
It will be very interesting to see how Teague is deployed, particularly with Trae Young operating at an obscenely high level and averaging 35.2 minutes per game. Pierce did say, though, that the team plans to utilize the pair together “some” and he complemented Teague’s fit as an on-ball player in what Atlanta is looking to accomplish offensively.
“Jeff instantly is a pick and roll player,” Pierce said of Teague’s fit in what Atlanta wants to do offensively. “Six assists per game, 38 percent from three, downhill player as well. He fits right in with what we do with all of our guys. Obviously, his presence, his experience and ability to play big moments is important but he fits right in with what we’re doing.”
The central theme of the day, however, was Teague’s excitement and how he can and will fit into Atlanta’s culture after a few years away.
“I’m just a cool guy anyway, I think,” Teague said. “I just want the guys to be able to talk to me and lean on me in any kind of way. I’ve been in the league for 11 years and I just want to help in any way possible.”
“Just try to be a leader,” Teague continued when prompted about his role with the Hawks. “There is a lot of young guys who are going to look to lean on you. They’re all really talented, but they’re young. So they haven’t been through some of the things that I’ve been through, played in some of the big games that I’ve played in, so they’re going to look at me a little more. And that’s cool. I’m here for that. I’ll try to help in any way I can on and off the court.”
Teague isn’t quite the same player that he was in his prime but, if nothing else, he should bolster a backcourt situation that has needed an injection throughout the season. Oh, and he expressed the desire to stick around long term... even if there is a long way to go before that decision, on both sides of the equation, will take place this summer.