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Atlanta Hawks counting on Teague to do more in Year 4
October 19, 2012VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By Brian Peloza
For VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
INDIANAPOLIS - Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague is being counted on more heavily this NBA season, but not just from a statistical aspect.
Teague, a Pike High School product, is being pushed to become a more vocal leader.
There’s just one problem with that idea:
“It’s definitely out of his personality,” said Nick Van Exel, a player development instructor with Atlanta who had a 13-year NBA career. “Jeff is more of a quiet personality … but with any team a coach wants his point guard to be a leader on the floor, and Jeff will probably be our starting point guard, so the coaches would like him to take that leadership role.”
A self-described “quiet guy,” Teague says he can flip the switch when needed.
“I kind of have two personalities,” Teague said prior to Atlanta’s preseason game in Indianapolis earlier this month. “Off the floor I’m a quiet, shy guy, but on the floor my whole attitude switches up and I try to be that player and leader on the floor that I need to be. I talk to my teammates about where they need to be. I’m all about winning, so that’s my biggest thing on the floor.”
Teague started all 66 games of last year’s strike-shortened season, after playing sparingly for a majority of his first two NBA seasons. With that experience comes the confidence to be more vocal.
“That was my biggest thing - talking to guys that were five years older than me - I wasn’t sure how they would take the way I would speak to them,” Teague said. “I was a little nervous about it at first, but I’m getting used to it now.”
During his rookie season in 2009-10, Teague averaged just 10 minutes of playing time and appeared in just 71 games.
It wasn’t an easy transition for the 2007 Indiana All-Star and collegiate All-American at Wake Forest. It was the first time in his basketball career he didn’t start.
“I didn’t play much and I didn’t understand why I didn’t play,” Teague said. “I didn’t understand the NBA like that. As the year went on I started to figure out what the coach wanted from me and when I got my opportunity to get on the floor I tried to make the most out of it.”
Playing time and productivity slightly increased for Teague during his second season, but an injury to guard Kirk Hinrich accelerated his learning curve.
“It was an opportunity and I just tried to seize that moment and play the best I could,” Teague said. “I played pretty well and it prepared me for the next year.”
Teague started six of Atlanta’s eight games during the 2011 playoffs averaging 12.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. Then he started every game last season - 66 in the regular season and six in the playoffs.
He averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 assists during the regular season; and 14 points and 4.2 assists in the playoffs.
“I thought I had a pretty decent year last year, but I want to get better this season,” Teague said. “I want to continue to make progress on my game and help this team any way I can. I’ve worked to become an all-around better point guard and I’m making better decision. I had a tendency to turn the ball over a lot in college playing free, but now I’m starting to understand the game a lot better and it’s slowing down for me.”
While the game is slowing down for Teague, Atlanta’s tempo is picking up. Joe Johnson, widely deemed “Iso Joe” by many due to the number of isolation plays ran for him, was traded during the offseason.
Additionally, former all-star point guard Devin Harris was acquired in a trade with Utah, while the Hawks also brought in sharp shooter Kyle Korver via a trade with Chicago.
“It’s a totally faster pace this year and we should score a lot more points,” said Teague. “It’s different, we have a flow to the offense this year. We’re not really big on isolation this year. We still post the ball up, but not like we did last year. We had a very talented player in Joe Johnson and we had to get him the ball, but this year it’s more of a unit that can score and everybody is going to chip in with points.”
Teague should be able to play as more of a traditional point guard, distributing the ball through set plays.
“We have a lot of talented players and a lot of great shooters which is great for my game,” Teague said. “It opens up the floor to me and it gives me an opportunity to get in the open floor, make plays and get some assists.”
With the new style of play less dependent on isolation, Teague is being counted on to see the floor better.
“Being the point guard you have to pretty much be able to see all four guys,” Van Exel said. “He has the speed and quickness to get to the lane and collapse defenses, now it’s going to be about him seeing the floor and the open man. We’re hoping he makes strides in that aspect.”
Improving Teague’s ability to see the floor happens away from the court, but coaches see a lot of potential this season.
“You show him film, you show him film, and you show him film,” Van Exel said. “I’ve been showing him film of when he breaks defenses down, and where his outlets are. … His speed is perfect for the team. With his speed it’s just a matter of him playing with his speed consistently. We can’t have two good games and then two or three bad games. We have got to have him at a high-level, high-speed and high-intensity each night.”
NOTES: Teague ranked eighth in the NBA last season in steals with 106, and 22nd in assists with 321...He needs 580 points to reach 2,000 for his career, and 419 assists to reach 1,000....Atlanta plays at Indiana twice this season, Feb. 5 and March 25. Chicago, which selected Jeff’s brother, Marquis Teague, in this year’s NBA Draft, will travel to Atlanta on Dec. 22, the first of three meetings this season...Atlanta will play on national television (ESPN) three times this season: Jan. 27 at New York, Feb. 20 vs. Miami, and April 3 vs. New York.
Jeff Teague regular season averages
09-10 71 games, 3 starts 3.2 ppg 1.7 apg
10-11 70 games, 7 starts 5.2 ppg 2.0 apg
11-12 66 games, 66 starts 12.6 ppg 4.9 apg
Jeff Teague playoff averages
09-10 9 games, 0 starts 1.8 ppg 0.4 apg 6.6 minutes/gm
10-11 8 games, 6 starts 11.8 ppg 3.5 apg 29.8 minutes/gm
11-12 6 games, 6 starts 14.0 ppg 4.2 apg 37.5 minutes/gm