NBA AM: Jeff Teague Laughing Off Pressure
Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague was a very busy man who attracted plenty of attention from the press during the team’s media day festivities last week. With veteran guard Kirk Hinrich possibly out until February, Teague entered Hawks training camp as the only healthy point guard on the roster possessing a guaranteed contract.
What a difference a year makes.
When the Hawks opened up their Media Day before the 2011 season, a lonely Teague watched as the media horde stampeded past him, blatantly overlooking his table, in a rush to interview some of Atlanta’s more well-known players such as Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith.
The lack of respect was never lost in Teague’s mind and it quietly served as his motivation to eventually prove the skeptics wrong.
“I like those kinds of situations of people doubting me,” Teague told HOOPSWORLD, alluding to the perceived lack of attention from the media last year. “I think I rise to the occasion.”
And rise to the occasion Teague did when given an opportunity during the 2011 playoffs.
After toiling on the bench in relative obscurity throughout last season, Teague was thrust into the starting lineup during the club’s second round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Hinrich was lost due to injury, leaving only Teague to take on league MVP Derrick Rose.
What was thought to be an absolute nightmare waiting to happen on paper, turned out to be Teague’s coming out party. He averaged an eye-opening 14.2 points and 4.8 assists per game during the series.
Teague finally earned some of the respect he was seeking, and as a result will now be entrusted with the keys to the Hawks’ offense – on a squad with postseason or bust aspirations.
Yet Teague is laughing off the newfound pressure being bestowed upon him by the same press corps that ignored him last year. His confidence entering the season is clearly being fueled by the outstanding performance against Rose under the bright lights of the postseason.
“It can’t get any more pressure than the playoffs,” Teague said confidently. “Not playing for a whole year almost and then having to get thrown in against the MVP. So now I don’t think this is pressure, it’s actually fun to me.”
One potential roadblock to success this season for Teague will be the condensed league schedule, due to lockout, where players will be forced to play multiple back-to-back sets without the standard rest period before games.
However Hinrich, an eight year veteran, has no doubt Teague will be up to challenge both physically and mentally while handling the rigors of the revised regular season schedule.
“Yeah for sure,” Hinrich told HOOPSWORLD when asked if he believed Teague was ready. “He’s got young legs. We’re excited about the dimension he brings us. He’s a great athlete and he played great in the second round and we’re excited looking for a lot more of that this year and I’m sure he is as well.”
Teague admits the schedule will be a challenge, especially without Hinrich in the lineup to start the season, but believes his workout regimen and youth will aid in overcoming the obstacles.
“That’s what I trained in the offseason for,” Teague said. “But playing 35 minutes on a back-to-back-back is going to be interesting. I’ve never had that before but I’m only 23 and I think that’s the best thing about this year for me. I’m still the young guy on the team.”
For the Hawks, who are coming off their fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs, the ability of Teague to firmly establish himself as the team’s floor general may be the difference between a first round postseason exit or an Eastern Conference Finals breakthrough for the organization.
The pressure is clearly on Teague to produce, but thus far the young guard is showing no chinks in his armor handling the newfound expectations.
Nuggets Get Their Man Afflalo: The Denver Nuggets and rising shooting guard Arron Afflalo have reportedly agreed to terms on a five-year $43 million contract.
The Denver Post first reported the story.
The Nuggets’ priority shifted to Afflalo after locking up center Nene with a five-year deal last week.
Afflalo has improved his scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage categories in each season of his four year career.
With Afflalo, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller and recently-acquired Rudy Fernandez now in the fold, the Nuggets will enter the upcoming season featuring one of the most promising backcourts in the league.
The Nuggets finished last season by going 18-7 down the stretch after dealing franchise superstar Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.
Head coach George Karl credited Afflalo with a lot of the team’s success during the late season run post-Carmelo because of his consistency and continued development.
If you look at last year, it was really weird,” Karl told the Denver Post. “I couldn’t take Arron off the court. Even when we had Carmelo (Anthony) and Chauncey (Billups), Arron was this foundation of consistency at the basics of the game. As the season went on, I was amazed. I felt naked not having him on the court. Then when we changed the team, there was probably never a growth of unity because it happened so fast and we had a lot of wins. Arron was kind of that glue that made everything work and fit.”
After beginning the offseason with a roster in a state flux, the Nuggets are now primed to once again compete for a playoff spot at the bare minimum.
NBA Loses Two More Class Acts: Fresh off the heels of losing former All-Star Brandon Roy, one of the league’s most professional guys to retirement, the NBA also took two more hits on Monday.
The San Antonio Spurs waived fifteen-year veteran Antonio McDyess after choosing not to guarantee the full $5.2 million on his deal. The move effectively ends the career of McDyess who hinted on numerous occasions that the 2011 campaign would be his last.
McDyess finishes his career with averages of 12 points, 7.5 rebounds and an All-Star appearance in 2001.
More importantly, McDyess leaves a strong legacy of being a great teammate, mentor and locker room leader to go along with his many on court accomplishments.
Spurs head coach Greg Popovich, who coached McDyess the last two seasons, made it a point to bring up McDyess’ contribution to the franchise off the floor.
“He’s one of the great teammates that we’ve had in the NBA for the last 15 years,” Popovich told the San Antonio Express. “Everybody who has coached him or played with him will tell you that. It’s not just my opinion. He’s a wonderful, polite, great individual; really a special guy.”
The next loss for the league was veteran forward Peja Stojakovic’s decision to hang up the laces after thirteen years.
Here is an excerpt of Stojakovic’s issued statement issued:
“I feel so blessed to have been given the athletic gifts to play professional basketball. I have always loved the game and have great respect for it and I know the time is right to step away. I promised myself a long time ago, if it came to the point where my heart and body were not 100 percent committed, I would step away. I have reached that point and I know the time is right to retire.
“I want to thank the great fans in Sacramento, Indiana, New Orleans, and Dallas who supported me throughout the years. I also want to thank the Dallas Mavericks for believing in me this past season and for giving me the chance to end my NBA career with a championship.”
Stojakovic was a three-time All-Star and finished with career averages of 17 points per game on over 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc. His 1,760 made three-point field goals ranks fourth all-time in NBA history – trailing only Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Kidd.
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