Bulls' Teague prepared and ready to be called upon
Second-year guard Marquis Teague talks about a successful summer league, putting in the extra effort this offseason, and his relationship with teammate and fellow point guard Derrick Rose
More from Sam Smith: Teague has put in the work, and it’s showing
Throughout his rehabilitation last season, Derrick Rose could regularly be found with his teammates at the Berto Center and United Center and that had a significant impact on many players, including rookie Marquis Teague. The second-year point guard said his conversations with Rose throughout the season helped him continue to learn the game and ultimately add to his confidence.
On July 16 in the NBA Summer League, Teague scored 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc and 8-of-12 from the free throw line, as the Bulls defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 80-78.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)
“I was always talking with Derrick,” Teague said last week at the Berto Center. “He’d help me out with things when I was on the floor, telling me what I should do or what he was seeing. We talked a lot during games in time outs. He’d point out spots he thought I could get to on the floor or let me know when and where I could get a good look on a pull up jumper.
“Derrick has played against a lot of guys in the league, so he knows there tendencies and would teach me about them,” added Teague. “If a guy is always going to his right, he’ll tell me to stay in that direction. He’s done it before and he’s a great guy to have in my corner.”
Just as a financial investor would be wise to seek advice from Warren Buffett if the billionaire was in the office next door, Teague realizes the value of spending time with Rose.
“I try to pick his brain and ask him questions,” said Teague of Rose. “He’s one of the best point guards in NBA, if not the best, and I’ve got him right there with me in the gym. So I’m going to take advantage of that.”
As for what Teague expects of Rose when he makes his return this fall, he believes we’ll see more of the same from the Chicago native.
“He’s Derrick Rose and he’s going to be Derrick Rose,” said Teague. “He’s going to come into the gym and work hard every day. Then he’s going to play hard in every game. I’m just looking forward to competing against him in practices. It helps me get better to play against a guy like that every day.”
Perhaps one of the many pages Teague has attempted to take from Rose’s book is with respect to work ethic. Shortly after Teague joined the Bulls last summer as a 19-year old rookie after playing one season at the University of Kentucky, he struggled in his NBA Summer League debut.
“I came in out of shape last summer,” acknowledges Teague. “This year, I was determined not to start behind the eight ball. I wanted to pick things up as soon as the offseason and be ahead of the game. Hopefully it will give me a better opportunity to get myself in the rotation.”
If his play in this year’s summer league was any indication, he is heading in the right direction. Teague averaged 18.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds in four games as Chicago went 3-1 (4-1 overall) in Las Vegas.
“I felt like I played strong out there,” said Teague. “I just wanted to go out and run the team to show that I can be a leader on the floor as well as knock down some shots. It’s pretty much a matter of doing in a game what I’ve been working on all summer. I feel like I did that and I gave our team an opportunity to win.”
At more than 30 minutes per game, Teague was able to settle into the rhythm of each contest and display a more assertive style. It was obvious he has come a long way in a year’s time and the reason why is not lost on Teague.
"I watched my brother his two first seasons and he didn’t get off the bench at all until the playoffs," said Marquis of his brother Jeff. "But he stayed ready and took advantage of his opportunity. In the NBA, anything can happen."
“With a year under my belt, I definitely felt more confident and comfortable,” said Teague. “You get those feelings because you’ve been there before. I knew the ropes from playing in an NBA season and experiencing the playoffs. My confidence is up now because I know what to expect.”
Aside from a few trips to Indianapolis to spend time with his family, Teague has been a regular at the Berto Center since summer league. A typical day at the gym includes working with an assistant coach on the floor with an emphasis on his outside shot, getting in as many repetitions as he can. A weightlifting and stretching session with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches is next, followed by an ice bath and/or massage.
It’s not unusual for Teague to return to the Berto Center at night to do some additional shooting, recognizing that is an area of his game he needs to improve.
“People know I can get in the paint. My speed and quickness helps me out a lot there,” said Teague. “But I want to show that I can knock down the outside shot consistently, that’s the main thing. But I’ve been working on everything. Obviously you can never be too good. So I’m working every day to try and get better.”
So far, so good, according to the feedback Teague has received from the Bulls staff.
“The coaches have been telling me they love what I’ve been doing all summer,” said Teague. “I’m working a lot harder and doing a lot better than last summer. It’s all about progress and showing them I’m improving.”
Part of that progress involves one-on-one meetings with Tom Thibodeau a couple times a week, encounters that Teague appreciates.
“It’s great to have that relationship with your coach. It’s good to be close,” said Teague of Thibodeau. “He’s usually watching at least part of my workout so he can tell me what he likes and how I’m doing, as well as what I need to do better. He pushes me to get in the weight room and helps me be ready for the season.”
“We had a team full of warriors. We were always ready," said Teague of last season's Bulls. "We faced a lot of adversity with guys getting injured and Derrick being out. But we always came out, competed and played hard. We gave it everything we had and it was a pretty good season considering everyone had counted us out from Day 1.”
That is essentially Teague’s goal, to be ready if and when called upon. It’s a lesson learned with assistance from his older brother, Jeff, who this offseason earned a four-year, $32 million deal to remain with the Atlanta Hawks.
“I watched my brother his two first seasons and he didn’t get off the bench at all until the playoffs,” said Teague. “But he stayed ready and took advantage of his opportunity. In the NBA, anything can happen. There can be injuries. So you’ve got to stay ready and can’t complain with your head down.”
Playing limited minutes as a rookie was a major adjustment for Teague, who started all 40 games he played in college when the Wildcats went 38-2 en route to their eighth NCAA Championship. But last year he decided to keep his head up and not complain, believing his time would come if he continued to develop and progress.
“I took it as a learning experience and I grew from it,” said Teague. “Whether it was talking to D Rose at practice, or watching Kirk [Hinrich] or Nate [Robinson] in games, I took bits and pieces from their games and added it to mine. I couldn’t sit there and pout about it, so I used it as a positive.”
Still only 20 years old, Teague’s best basketball appears to be ahead of him, especially as he improves his aforementioned perimeter shot. After all, the signing of Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and the selections of Tony Snell and Erik Murphy this offseason were moves made to provide the Bulls with shooters capable of spacing the court.
“That’s what will open up the floor for a guy like Derrick, who can get to the rack and finish,” said Teague. “If our guys are making shots, it’s tougher for the defense to help and easier for us to score. It’s going to help me, too, because I try to play the same way. So I love having all these shooters on our team.”