Judging by his statisticsfive points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from the foul line, two assists and three reboundsMarquis Teague didnt have a major impact on Monday nights game. But for a 19-year-old, thrust into a primetime role, facing off with arguably the games top point guardat least active, with Derrick Rose on the shelf, though the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker would probably beg to differit was a huge step in his development.
However, Marquis Teague didnt act that way afterwards. He wasnt brash about itmaybe a bit nonchalant, in that way 19-year-olds can bebut he was genuine.
I wasnt nervous. I play against my teammates every day. Theyre just as good as anybody in this league, so Im comfortable out there. Im a basketball player. Im ready to play against anybody, the Indianapolis native explained. I was happy I went out there and had the opportunity to go out there, and compete, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get the win.
Every game I play in, I look at it as a learning experience because Im a rookie. Just take it and run with it, get better, he added. If you step on the court, youve got to be ready, no matter what time it is. Im not really fazed by the situation that Im in. it doesnt matter to me. Ive played in a lot of big games in my life, so its another game.
My confidence is the same. It never left. Its always going to be there. Im a basketball player. Thats how I feel.
Now, Teague didnt act as if he should suddenly usurp veterans Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson in the pecking orderafter all, the Bulls did lose and Rondos 20-point, 10-assist, nine-rebound, five-steal outing was a big reason why, with the All-Star making several key plays down the stretchbut it was certainly a moment that hell be able to look back on fondly one day. Just ask his teammates, coach and even the opposition.
I thought it was good. I thought he played real great. I thought he was aggressive, trying to get to the basket. I thought he really played Rondo tough and I think he really used his quickness, Rip Hamilton told CSNChicago.com, before recalling his own rookie-year moment, against veteran Allan Houston. It was fun. It was exciting. It was one of those things where you cant wait to get that opportunity. You just sit there and pay your dues, and when you get out there, you just try not to get too anxious.
But you couldnt get too excited because he was coming at you.
Added Joakim Noah: The young fella played really well. Hes a worker. Hes working really hard and hes just got to stay at it, stay in the playbook and know all the plays, keep grinding. Hes definitely a competitor.
Chimed in Luol Deng: Im proud of Marquis. Not playing in the beginning, staying ready, coming in early, working and I thought he did well tonight. He did more than well. He did great, I think. Its not easy coming in, a team like that, end of game, fourth quarter, clutch time and he wasnt afraid. Got the ball, drove, got fouls, made some plays.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who was familiar with Teagues game because his son, Hornets rookie Austin, was in the same high school class, also came away impressed.
He played terrific, playing with good speed and one thing you love about Thibs is he left him out there, which is terrific. I thought he was responsible, in a lot of way, for bringing them back, Rivers said. I don't think it's any fun to play against Rondo whether you're a 10-year guy or a one-year guy. Teague is a tough kid. I've watched him play for a long time because he and Austin played AAU against each other for a long time. He's a tough kid. I thought he handled Rondo pretty well.
Rondo, a fellow University of Kentucky product, told CSNChicago.com: He played aggressive. Strong going to the cup at the end of the game. He didnt shy away from making a play for his team, so hes a very young confident guard and he should be in this league for a long time.
Perhaps the person who can relate to Teague best on the Bulls is second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, who didnt get to experience a traditional rookie season, due to the lockout-shortened schedule, which also affected training camp and robbed him of a summer league. On a team with experienced, veteran players, Butler and Teague had the shared experience of being at the Berto Center almost all summer, enduring individual workouts together.
Im happy for him. He works extremely hard. He deserves it. Hes constantly in the gym and I know how it feels to be a rookie. Sitting over there, but when your names called, youve got to be ready. I feel like he performed to the best of his ability tonight, Butler told CSNChicago.com. I dont know if it was so much in the summer if it was when training camp hit because he had been through an NBA workout, an NBA-type summer, so when training camp hit, he was up and running. So, he was ready to go. Im not surprised, man. Im so proud of him because he works so hard and he knows his role, but he also knows that his role is going to be called upon every once in a while. Hes ready for it.
Even though we play different positions, I know how hes feeling mentally because thats how I was last year, so I tell him the same thing that Ronnie told me, that Griff told me, all these guys told me, which is be ready, continue to work, dont get too high, dont get too low, try to stay right in the middle and I think everything will level itself out, he continued. Mondays game was big. It builds his confidence, for one. But two, youre out there with Rondo. Hes guarding you, so youre making plays. Its a big confidence booster for him, for anybody, I think. You see those guys on TV for however many years and youre out there lining up against him. Youre like, Oh, I can do what he does. I can be that player.
Teague clearly remembers those summer workouts and for a player who was a highly-touted since his early high school days, it was an eye-opener, even with an older brotherJeff, the Atlanta Hawks starting point guardalready in the league. But after winning a college national championship and more importantly, being from Indianapolis, the biggest city in a hoops hotbed of a state, Teague felt prepared for the experience.
Coming from me, since Day 1, Ive been in the gym with Thibs going hard, harder than Ive ever went in my life. This is just a different level. Youve got to have a different work ethic to play on this level, he recalled. I had many of those. I had a lot of workouts in the summer, going with Thibs, doing two-a-days. There was a lot of times you were like, Man! This is serious on this level. I had a lot of those days.
Teague has been preparing for situations like Monday my whole life. Thats why you play the game, to play the best. Every night, youve got a top point guard youve got to compete with, so youve just got to be ready, he continued. :Growing up my whole life, Ive got a lot of basketball experience, playing with my brothers. Ive played against so many great players just in my city that I feel like could play on this level. Ive been playing against Courtney Lee since I was 11, 12. It just gave me a lot of experience.
If you step on the court, youve got to be ready, no matter what time it is. Im not really fazed by the situation that Im in. it doesnt matter to me. Ive played in a lot of big games in my life, so its another game.
Whether or not that mentality is approved of by his perfectionist head coach is another story, but Thibodeau, who has slowly seemed to warm up to the rookieout of necessity, if not by choicetacitly signed off on Teague, simply by virtue of throwing him to the wolves. Maybe not literally, but playing him for all of the fourth quarter, much of it against Rondo, was no easy task.
Played very well. I thought he played hard. Thats the first step, the coach explained. I liked the way he matched up with the speed. Barbosas extremely quick, so I thought his speed was good with that matchup and Rondos obviously super quick also, so I liked that matchup. I thought it got us going, got us playing with some energy.
Just his energy. I thought the speed and quicknesswhen youre dealing with Barbosa and Rondo, speed and quickness is enormousand then, we wanted to extend our defense a little bit, so Taj and Marquis gave us some energy, he went on to say, revealing why he played Teague the entire period and then recalling a crucial play the rookie made late in the game. On Marquis drive, I thought that was a tough call. I thought he made a strong move to the basket, probably could have gone either way, went against us, thats part of the game.
Countered Teague: Whatever Thibs asks me to do, thats what I was going to do. If he wanted me to come out, thats fine. Whatever he needed.
He just told me to go out there and play aggressive, using my speed to get to the rim, making plays for my teammates. Thats what I was trying to do, he added. I saw a few gaps I had in the first half that I didnt take, and my teammates told me to be aggressive and play my game, so thats what I tried to do.
Keep doing what youre doing, youngster. With his surprisingly impressive individual defense, explosiveness going to the basket and most importantly, fearlessnessyes, he has to work on his outside jumper or at least be more willing to take itTeague has an extremely bright future.