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Art Garcia

The Hawks took point guard Jeff Teague with the 19th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Streeter Lecka/NBAE/Getty Images

Hawks' Bibby takes rookie Teague under his wing

Posted Dec 6 2009 1:35PM

Jeff Teague remembered it as a summons. The Hawks rookie was back in the locker room, sans sneakers after this particular training camp practice. He had done his extra shooting work and had called it a day.

Mike Bibby had other ideas.

"He shoots a lot, that's his thing -- he shoots a lot of jump shots," Teague said of the veteran who shares his position. "I had taken off my shoes, I was ready to go home and take a shower. One of our guys came back in there and said, 'Mike wants you to come out there and shoot with him. It's not time for you to leave. You don't leave until Mike leaves.'"

Teague hasn't had to be told again. With his 11 years of point guard experience, Bibby has taken the 19th pick out of Wake Forest under his wing.

"He's already lightning fast and has the skills, but I tell him it's a lot tougher to guard somebody that can really shoot the ball," Bibby said. "The toughest people I've ever had to guard are people that have been lightning quick and can shoot the ball like Stephon Marbury."

Unlike Marbury, Bibby isn't planning a basketball sabbatical after signing on for another three years this past summer. But the Hawks are also planning for life after their 31-year-old playmaker.

"In a few more years, Mike will be fading out," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "Jeff has got to be ready to go."

Grooming his eventual replacement has come naturally to Bibby, even if he never received such treatment. Back when he was a hotshot rookie out of Arizona in 1999, Bibby was supposed to be the backup to Lee Mayberry in Vancouver. That plan was scratched when Mayberry broke his foot in camp.

"I was the only point guard left and that's the way it started for me," said Bibby, who started all 50 games of the lockout-shortened season and earned All-Rookie first-team honors.

"I always worked hard regardless. Once I got to school, I knew what I wanted to be. A lot of people like to work out to where coaches and reporters see them working out, but that stuff doesn't make a difference to me. I'm going to get it in regardless who is watching."

And he's making sure Teague develops the same work ethic.

"Mike is a true veteran," Woodson said. "He's been that way since Day 1 when he came in with us. I've been on enough teams to see veterans not willing to help a young kid when they're just being selfish. That's not being a good pro. This young kid has an opportunity to be a player in this league."

Becoming one doesn't always happen overnight. Teague is playing less than 10 minutes per game behind Bibby and sixth man Jamal Crawford. The Hawks have depth across the board and are winning.

Atlanta (14-6) is proving that last season wasn't a fluke, joining the Celtics, Magic and Cavaliers as the only teams in the Eastern Conference playing .700 ball or better. Woodson can afford to bring Teague along slowly.

"As the season wears on, Jeff will get more minutes out there," Woodson said. "I think it's huge having veteran guys. You don't have to be thrown to the wolves right away and have to learn on the fly. That's the unique thing about our team this year versus teams in the past because I've always had to play young guys right out of the box and they just weren't ready to play."

Teague has adopted Bibby's post-practice shooting routine. Working with assistant Jim Todd, Teague has to nail 100 mid-range jumpers -- 10 spots and 10 shots. He also has to make three straight 3-pointers from five different points around the arc. The latter has proven the most challenging, but Teague sees the results.

"This is my craft and I want to be the best at it," said Teague, a third-team All-American last season in his second and final year with the Demon Deacons.

Teague hasn't done much shooting lately after practice with Bibby, who's been treating a sore left ankle. Bibby promised that as soon as he's ready again, he'll be out there with the rookie.

Patience is another lesson Teague is taking to heart.

"You want to play as a rookie, but you have to understand the situation," he said. "Mike knows what he's doing. I learn every day from him. I'd like to get out there and play, I'm a competitor, but I have to wait my turn and I'm happy with it.

"I'm not in a rush. We're winning and playing really good basketball. That's all that matters."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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