Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, in his third NBA season, is clearly exhibiting a breakout year. After starting in just seven games last season, Jeff has evolved into a key component of the starting lineup 54 of 54 games thus far. He is averaging 12.3 points per game, more than double his average last season, and has nearly tripled his playing time to 34.1 minutes a game from just a year ago. With a quiet confidence and humility, the 6’2” Indianapolis native continues to help lead his team in the playoffs race. NBPA.com sat down with Jeff to talk Hawks, CP3, the National Champion Kentucky Wildcats and more:
Q: How are you adjusting to being a starter in the league?
I’m getting used to it, but it’s still challenging at times. I used to come off the bench and play with the second unit. But now, I’m getting used to playing with Joe [Johnson], Josh [Smith] and those guys. I am very happy; I worked hard for this opportunity and am trying to seize the moment.
Q: You come from a basketball family. How has your Dad, who played college basketball, impacted your playing career?
My Dad taught me everything I know about basketball. I look to him for advice every game and talk to him just about every time I get an opportunity. He tells me what he saw on the floor the game before, and to go out there and play my game…not to worry about too much and be aggressive.
My Dad was a lot slower than me, so he doesn’t play like me. But since he taught me everything I know about the game, I probably got most of my moves from him.
My little brother Marquis is also playing right now, so it’s exciting for our whole family. He’s really fast, gets up and down the court, and is really athletic.
Q: How about that National Championship your brother’s Kentucky Wildcats just picked up?
I’m happy for my brother, who accomplished a great deal in his first year at Kentucky. Watching him win the National Championship is something I won’t ever forget.
Q: While playing point guard at Wake Forest, did you ever feel like you were in CP3’s shadow? Do you guys have a relationship?
We were a really good team when I was there – we were #1 in the country – so it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I looked up to CP, which is why I went to Wake Forest. He was there when I went on my school visit, and I was excited to meet him. He told me how great the team and the campus was. He most definitely got me there. CP is a really good guy.
I don’t talk to him that often now, but when I see him, we go out to eat and things like that. He’s given me advice throughout the years, like not to take the NBA experience for granted. When I wasn’t playing much my rookie and second year, he told me to keep playing hard and that when my opportunity came, to be ready to take full advantage of it. He was completely right.
Q: We know this is a crazy year with so many back-to-backs and few rest days. How are you holding up?
It’s all fun to me, playing basketball. The games are the best part. But you get a little tired – I didn’t think I would get that tired being 23 years old – but I did. I’m trying to catch my legs again. You have to rest and stay off your feet as much as possible. Instead of walking around the malls like I normally would during downtime on a road trip, I just try to stay in the hotel and rest. I know that last year, we’d go out to explore the cities we were playing in, but I don’t really see guys doing that anymore. I also stayed in Atlanta to rest during All-Star Weekend.
Q: What are your goals for the rest of the year as a team and individually?
We are right in the hunt for the playoffs. The East is back-to-back like a logjam. I think we are a good enough team to make the playoffs, and I think we are going to make some noise too. Everybody in the league wants to get to the championship, and I think we have the ingredients to get there.
Personally, I am working to get better every game.
ABOUT JEFF TEAGUE
In his third NBA season, all with the Hawks, Jeff Teague was selected by Atlanta in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft. He played college basketball at Wake Forest University, where, during his sophomore year, he became the school’s first All-American since Chris Paul in 2005 and the 13th in school history. In that same year, Teague was selected as a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, the John Wooden Award and the Oscar Robertson Trophy. An Indianapolis native, his father, Shawn Teague, played on the college level at Missouri and Boston University under Rick Pitino. He also is the older brother of Marquis Teague, a member of the 2012 NCAA Championship Kentucky team.