Jon Cooper - Jeff Teague - Viva Las Vegas

Viva, Las Vegas!
His rookie season behind him, Jeff Teague looks ahead to summer league.

By Jon Cooper

 

Almost to a man, the Atlanta Hawks are looking forward to a little time off to reflect on their 2009-10 season, and resting up before gearing up for next year's Training Camp.

For Jeff Teague, "a little time" is literally a little time, about as little as you can get.

"I'm going to go home for like a weekend then
I'm going to come back here," said Teague,
who still calls Indianapolis, Ind., his home. "I've
got work to do. I didn't play a whole lot this year
and hopefully I can change that next year. That's going to be the biggest thing for me. I'm going
to go home for the weekend then come back
and start working out with [Strength and Conditioning Coach Chattin Hill] in the
weight room."

The Hawks' first-round pick in the 2009 NBA
Draft, Teague, quickly learned that he would get
the majority of his experience by watching 11-year veteran point Mike Bibby. He quickly accepted his fate.

"I'm learning every day," said Teague, back in early November. "[Coach Woodson is] really tough on rookies. It's going to be better for me in the long run. I'm trying to learn the system and hanging in there every day."

The first days of that run are done and while the numbers may not show it — in 71 games, including three starts, Teague averaged 3.2 points per game, 1.7 assists, in 10.1 minutes, shooting .396, .219 from three and .837 from the line — he feels he greatly benefited from watching.

"I think I understand the game a little better," said Teague, who, during the season, led the team in assists six times and scoring once (the season finale against Cleveland, when he went for 24 points and 15 assists, with five rebounds). "When I first came it was different. Guys were so much faster so it was a little difficult. Then I started to get the hang of it and I got more comfortable as the year went on. So I think next year I'll be pretty good."

Teague admitted that habits he picked up by watching how his teammates acted in the locker room was as important a learning tool as anything he may have learned in a practice drill or by watching how veterans handled crunch time. He credited a lot of that to his locker room neighbor, Joe Smith.

"He's been here for so long. I saw how he was handling things," said Teague. "He was always working, always staying ready. That's how I have to be. If I want to have a long career in this league. I have to always stay ready, keep my body in shape, and just know the mental part of the game. That's what he does."

What Teague does during the summer, and how he incorporates what he learned during his rookie season and first taste of NBA Playoffs (during which he averaged 1.8 points in 6:30), is the next important step in his development and is a step being closely watched and anticipated by his teammates.

"It's a big summer for Jeff Teague," said forward Josh Smith. "I know he really didn't get a lot of playing time this season but he's going to have the summer league to work on his game and I know next year he's going to get a time to show his talent. I know with the work ethic that he has he's going to be ready to play."

The summer league, which takes place at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV from July 9th through the 18th, is still a few weeks away, giving Teague some time to prepare both physically and mentally.

About the only down side is that his preparation won't include a whole lot of knowledge about his teammates.

"I have no clue who's going to go," he said, with a laugh. "I think I'm the only one so far. Most of our team is veterans, so I'm not sure. But if anyone else comes I'll be happy to see them."

Jon Cooper is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.