Summer League is all about opportunity. The chance for players to be seen, to make a name for themselves, to find a place to get paid to play basketball. For some, it’s about a chance to step up and find their place in the NBA.
Maybe nobody in Las Vegas right now has a bigger opportunity than Jeff Teague.
The Atlanta Hawks need better play from the point guard spot, and it’s not going to come out of Mike Bibby anymore. Teague, the second-year point guard, has minutes that he can grab. He can make that job his own. He knows that. It starts by impressing new coach Larry Drew during Summer League.
“Mike’s getting a little older and coach is telling me every day to work harder and I’ll have opportunities I just need to go seize the moment and that’s what I’m doing, just getting ready for that,” Teague said Thursday night after leading the Hawks to a win.
But will he really grab it?
“I thought he ran the team pretty well, made some good decisions…” said Larry Conner, Summer League coach for the Hawks Thursday night. “We’re still looking for him to demand the ball more… sometimes he can drift up and let somebody else handle the ball, then we are out of kilter because he don’t take their place in the offense down on the other end.”
Thursday night was a good study in miniature of where Teague is and where he needs to go.
In the first half, Teague seemed focused on facilitating, but the end result was he kind of floated through the game. At one point you could hear Conner on the bench urging him to push the ball up court faster. He got the ball up court, made the pass but was not aggressive. There were moments: he flashed a nice crossover to get open on one play, threw up a pretty teardrop on another, made an aggressive steal on a trap right at the end of the first quarter. But for the most he was not the aggressor. He had 4 points on 1 of 4 shooting in the half.
“Being a point guard on this team, you look at our veteran squad and we have Josh and we have Joe and they are really good scorers so I’m going to have to be a facilitator most of the game,” Teague said of his play. “So I try to play it out like that here, you know we have some scorers.”
Then came the third quarter, and a different Teague seemed to come out. He started using his quickness to break down the defense. He became aggressive coming off picks. He started to push the ball up in transition.
He drew foul on the Bucks Tiny Gallon (best name in Summer League) by attacking the rim, then a couple plays later made a fantastic lead bounce pass to Crawford in transition. The play of the game for him came soon after, when Teague attacked the rim in transition, drew the contact and still put it off the glass for the and-one.
That seemed to give him confidence. Soon after He made a hard move off pick, drew help defender then made the pretty bounce pass to the open man. Next possession he drove hard and created space for himself with the baseline floater. Next trip Teague was fouled attacking the basket in transition.
That is the Teague the Hawks want to see. That is the Teague that is going to get more than the 18-20 minutes a game he might start the year at. The Hawks need better production at the point and Teague can give them that. He has the opportunity.
But he has to grab it.