There was a time when there was no question mark on that headline.
By December it had a qualifier.
Eventually the question faded away as the DNPs and cameo appearances piled up for Teague. This happened even though Teague had shown enough promise and production to warrant more opportunities, at least in my view.
And now here we are again. Teague was impressive against the Blazers and now he’s the talk of (true) Hawks fandom, which of course includes my blog people.
One great game doesn’t mean Teague is The Man, especially since there will be tougher match ups. But you’d think this at least means no more DNP-CDs or quick hooks from L.D.. If L.D. wants the Hawks to run and play sound defense, which they must to have any kind of a chance to be better, then don’t Hinrich and Teague have to get all of the minutes at point guard?
No doubt some of L.D.’s concerns about Teague are (were?) legit. Teague doesn’t seem to have much “dog” in him. He doesn’t (didn’t?) always pressure the ball full court, attack the rim or push the pace the way L.D. wanted. Teague does (did?) tend to defer to his teammates too often.
In other words, Teague has had plenty of games where he didn’t do any of the things he did on Saturday. But the constant question has been: How can Teague gain confidence, and how can the Hawks know for sure what they have, if L.D. doesn’t let him play through some rough patches?
I’ve always felt L.D. sincerely wants Teague to succeed. He’s said the kind of things he did after Saturday’s game all along (I figured my blog people would pick up on some of the contradictions in those statements and you didn’t disappoint). But even as Drew praised Teague, he continued to jerk him in and out of the rotation for reasons that weren’t always clear and even as the Hawks struggled with in areas where Teague’s skills could help.
(I’ve seen theories among my blog people that perhaps L.D. hasn’t given Teague more of a shot because he concerns about job security made him stick with Bibby. That wouldn’t make sense considering Woody’s reluctance to give Teague more burn was a strike against him in management’s view.)
In any event, Teague says the sporadic playing time hasn’t weighed on him.
“I don’t think my confidence wavered,” Teague said. “It’s difficult when you go back and forth but you have got to be a professional and stay ready. Smoove and those guys told me, ‘Just play your game.’ I went out there and I played my game [Saturday].”
Said Josh: “He stayed with it. It’s easy for a guy to hang their head. He’s had every excuse and every reason to not play confident.”
J.J. has been a consistent supporter. Each time Teague has flashed the kind of ability he did Saturday, J.J. says the Hawks just need to trust in Teague.
“I was in a similar position as Jeff,” Joe said. “Back in my first and second year in the league, my minutes were sporadic. Whenever I got a chance to play I always produced and tried to do my best. When Phoenix traded away Penny and Steph, I just kind of blossomed.
“I look at Jeff as the same way. He’s got unbelievable talent, speed, explosive. He has all the tools. He’s confidence is the only thing left. Once he gets his confidence he is going to be a beast.”
Perhaps dominated the Blazers will be the thing that brings out Teague’s inner dog.
“Every time I get on the court I feel like I play with a little fire,” Teague said. “I’m a laid-back person; I have a laid-back personality. But when I go on that court I think everybody plays with emotion and a chip on their shoulder.”
Now we’ll see if L.D. is finally ready to give Teague regular minutes.
“I just have to keep being that little birdie on his shoulder and keep letting him know how good he can be for our team,” L.D. said. “I don’t want him hesitating; I want him being vocal. He was out there [Saturday], which was shocking. I saw him clapping and having both fists in the air and that was a welcome sight.
“I don’t want him to bow down to any of our other players on our team. Joe is a captain, Josh Smith is a captain and Al is a captain. But [Teague] is the head of that snake at the top of the floor and I want him to know that I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
Check back later for updates from practice today.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat