At Summer League, the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff was trying to pump Jeff Teague full of confidence — he could be the starting point guard for the Hawks if he would just take the job away from Mike Bibby. He needed to find his dog.
The job is available because the Hawks have a problem when Bibby is on the floor, as coach Larry Drew explained to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“He is at the stage of his career where it is tough for him to defend pick-and-rolls and teams know that. We try to do some things to disguise it, try to manipulate it. He is not the only one. We have just got guys with the initial impact of the ball, they have a hard time with it. We just try to manipulate it a little bit to make it a little bit easier for him. It’s something we will continue to work at.”
Teams are exposing Bibby defensively, an issue Mike Woodson had to deal with last year. An issue that will cost the Hawks in the playoffs. Again. Teague is the better defender but Bibby takes charge of the offense in a way Teague does not — Bibby has always had his dog. Also Bibby shoots better — he is shooting 49 percent from three — and turns the ball over a little less. Because of that it seems Drew just does not trust the young Teague the way he does the veteran Bibby.
“I’m trying to find that balance. You give up certain things with certain guys. Teague has the speed, the quickness, the footspeed to defend the pick-and-roll. But you give up things in other areas with him on the floor. He vs. Mike on the floor, obviously Mike is a shotmaker and you give that up. It’s tic for tac. You try to get both guys better in areas where they are deficient. You try to get Mike better at defending the pick-and-rolls. We have got to manipulate it a little bit and help him out as much as you can with that. Teague, because he does a pretty good job with it, we constantly try to improve his shot and keep him in an attack mode offensively and get to the basket and finishing. You give up something on one end, you give up something else at the other.”
There is no easy answer. Look at the best five-man lineups for the Hawks and Bibby is in almost every unit, not Teague. But is Teague getting enough of a chance with the front line players — he sets teammates up better (higher assist percentage) and isn’t a bad shooter. He is just not as aggressive as Bibby.
And that’s what the Hawks coaches were telling Teague at Summer League — be aggressive and take the job away from Bibby. This year’s Teague is better than the rookie version across the board — shooting better, higher percentage of assists, generally looking more comfortable. But it has not been enough to earn the trust of Larry Drew. Yet.