Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford were an inseparable pair during their time in Atlanta. They weren’t playing much, so having each other helped them get through some difficult times. They hung out after games or on off days and were always heard cracking jokes and laughing at practice or while on the bench.
So, when Teague heard that Crawford was dealt to Washington near the trade deadline, he admitted, “I was hurt.”
But looking back, Teague now realizes that the trade was best for the two of them. Crawford was given more minutes and a green light in Washington and with regular starting point guard Kirk Hinrich sidelined with a strained right hamstring, Teague has emerged as one of the surprising postseason revelations in the Hawks’ second-round series against the top overall seed Chicago Bulls.
Before the series began, Teague looked severely overmatched against league most valuable player Derrick Rose. Teague got nine paltry minutes in the Hawks’ first-round series win over Orlando. The second-year point guard rarely played for Hawks Coach and former Wizards assistant Larry Drew and his mistakes were followed by a quick hook.
With no fear of looking over his shoulder, Teague has held his own against Rose -- whom Teague, an Indianapolis native, knew from battling in AAU -- and been one of the reasons the Hawks are tied at 1-1 with the Bulls. “It’s a lot of responsibility on my part,” Teague said. “You have to make sure everyone gets touches out there and where they can be effective. It’s the playoffs and you need to go out there and be confident, you can’t second guess yourself. I know I need to go out there with confidence to help my team win.”
Teague has averaged 15.5 points on 48 percent shooting and has committed just one turnover in 85 minutes in the first two games. He scored a game-high 21 points in the Game 2 loss and Drew gave him the game ball after he scored 10 points in Game 1 and helped limit Rose to 2-of-9 shooting when they were matched up.
“Jeff is showing what he’s capable of,” Drew said. “That’s two games he’s put together a solid performance. I’m very proud of him. I’ve always believed in this kid. I’ve always said he has something special. He has the ability to impact the game with his speed and quickness.”
Teague’s presence has probably thrown off the Bulls, since they were more familiar with Hinrich’s tendencies and likely had little scouting information on Teague. Hawks players and coaches were always aware of Teague’s athletic talents, but he rarely brought the necessary focus and professionalism. Teague said that changed after Crawford was traded, because he had to mature.
“That was like my best friend on the team. We was really close. We did everything together,” Teague said. “So when he got traded, I was a little disappointed, but I knew it would be a little better for him. I knew he’d get an opportunity to play and I knew that my minutes would go up.
“It was a bittersweet situation but also a win-win for both of us,” he said. “I think we both grew up a lot. We did a lot of joking around with each other during practice because we weren’t playing, but when he went to Washington and got his opportunity to play there and I got a chance to play here, I think we both took the job a lot more serious. I prepared better. I stayed focused more during shootaround and things like that.”
Crawford returned to Atlanta to watch the Hawks’ in the first round and Teague said he expects his good friend to be back to see him starting against Rose. “We both called each other everyday to congratulate each other after a good game and things like that,” Teague said after Game 2. “He just texted me, I’m about to hit him back.”