The pickup games at Philips in advance of training camp are loosely organized affairs. The Hawks’ full squad hasn’t been on the floor yet. The stakes are low and the comp isn’t what Teague will see once the ball tips for real.
But J.J. was out there with Teague this week, and already he’s pushing Teague to stop being Rook’, taking a backseat to the vets, and start being the guy who’s ready to be the starting point guard.
“‘Play your game. Don’t just defer to me a lot.’ ” Teague said J.J. told him the other day on the court. “When he said that, that helped me a lot. I’m going to be a lot more aggressive.”
That message already had been delivered by L.D. and his assistants. But it’s one thing to hear it from the coaches, another to hear it from the All-Star guard who for a while now has been the guy everyone defers to on this team.
“That’s his next step,” J.J. said. “When he is out on the court, he has to be the leader. He is the guy who makes us run as a team. When he gets in the game, he has to be aggressive, he has to get guys in the right spot, he has to talk more.”
Teague said other teammates have told him the same things, so he plans to go into camp with an aggressive mindset. He’s also changed his body, staying in Atlanta this summer and hitting the weight room. He said he’s up to 186 after being listed at 180 last season.
“I think my legs are a lot stronger,” he said. “That’s what I’ve really been working on. For defensive purposes [because] I was coming out of my stance a lot.”
Teague also has been working on his jump shot with assistant Lester Conner in an effort to shore up a weakness in his game.
“That is really going to help me out there,” he said. “I’ve been making a lot of threes.”
It’s no secret Teague’s development is key for the Hawks. L.D. wants the Hawks to play offense at a faster pace–Teague is among players who have been running on the track at Georgia Tech, something the Hawks did last summer “but not like this,” he said. L.D. also wants the Hawks to play more straight-up D, and Teague probably is the Hawks guard best able to keep his man in front of him.
Both of L.D.’s goals would seem to be more attainable with Teague playing significantly more than the 10.1 minutes per game he logged in 2009-10. This is Teague’s chance to establish himself with the Hawks and show that he’s at least a bona fide rotation guy, if not a starter, on a good team
He said he understands what’s at stake.
“If you want to play in this league, when you get the opportunity you’ve got to take advantage of it,” Teague said. “I think what gives me an advantage is we have a lot of good players here who are going to help me along the way. We’ve got Bibby, who is a veteran point guard. He has been helping me since Day One. I know he is still going to play, but just to get an opportunity to play [more] is great.”
J.J. said Teague’s teammates have his back.
“I think he is going to be good,” J.J. said. “Last year was a learning experience. The point guard position is the toughest position to come into the league and try to play. He had his ups and downs last year, but this year I think he will be a lot better.”