HAWKSVILLE - First impressions amongst your peers in the NBA can go a long way.
For Hawks rookie point guard Jeff Teague, the buzz traveled from an impressive mini-camp in late July all the way through Labor Day and until now.
And it’s not just his Hawks teammates that have noticed. His point guard peers around the league, at least the veterans that have been on the floor with him this summer (and mainly in the past week or so at the Hawks’ practice facility), have noticed. And they see plenty that they like about the former Wake Forest star.
“The one thing that sticks out to me is that he makes shots,” said former Hawks point guard Anthony Johnson, who plays in Orlando these days but still calls Atlanta home in the offseason. “That’s going to go a long way here in the system he’ll be in and really in his career. If you’re a guy that can get shots, that can make shots and create shots, you’ve got the package you’ll need to be successful. And he’s got all that.”
Teague has all that and more from what I saw on the floor in back-to-back days last week. Not only is he super quick and fearless going to the basket (he dunked on a fast break in one game, getting up and down before Josh Smith could even turn to think about sending the ball into orbit), Teague can score in a variety of ways. He has a sweet pull up jumper in traffic, a push shot in the lane and can spot up from all over the floor and knock down shots as well.
Sure, you say it’s just pick up games in early September. Yeah, training camp hasn’t even started yet. But those first impressions are what count. And not one person left that gym on either day questioning Teague’s game. The veterans, the youngsters, the NBA stars and the guys looking for their next gig in Europe, they all agreed that Teague was even more impressive than they expected.
“He’s going to make things really interesting,” said Hawks forward Marvin Williams, a Tar Heel not prone to praising a Demon Deacon. “I just love that he’s been here all this time. It’s a clear indicator of where his mind is in terms of what he has to do this season. That’s the kind of attitude you want to see in a rookie or anybody else when they are coming into a new team. Plus, I feel like basketball players are made in the summer time. That’s when people are relaxing and doing whatever. The guys that put in the work in the summer time, that’s when it really shows in the season. Because the truth is you don’t really have time to work on your individual game as much as you’d like to during the season. And everybody can tell who’s done the work and who hasn’t. Jeff Teague has done the work.”
One of the favorite punching bags around here, Randolph Morris has done his fair share of work this summer as well. In fact, I’d argue that no [Hawks] player has undergone a more radical physical transformation this summer than Morris, who has shed some 60 pounds from his 6-11 frame in an effort to break into the playing rotation in his second season with the team.
“The work I did was both mental and physical,” he said after a recent workout. “I was trying to get myself where I needed to be mentally and physically for the long season. Just as important for me is working for the short term where I can try to get on the court this year. It was really a two-pronged approach for me this summer like it is every summer. It was about working to get myself in the best shape possible for the upcoming season while also realizing that the guys that last in the NBA are the ones that take the best care of their bodies. The guys that have the longest careers are the ones that you see in the gym in the dead of summer, when there are no cameras and no fans around. That’s where the real work is done.”
I’m still not sure if Morris will end up in the plans (or the playing rotation) this season, but I have to give it up to him for the full body makeover he pulled off this summer. As a guy who could stand to shed a few pounds himself, it’s inspiring to see someone start from where he did and end up where he is now.
SIMS IN THE FOLD
Courtney Sims is now comfirmed as yet another training camp invitee for the Hawks. I’m hearing the total group will number at least 18 and possibly as many as 23 or 24. That sounds a bit on the high end to me. This is a team that already has so many roster spots set, there’s little need to add a ton of extra bodies to the training camp mix.