How has Marquis Teague spent his summer vacation? The now-second year guard starred for the SummerBulls' in Vegas, listened to more Chief Keef than what is probably considered safe and occasionally stared at your Facebook profile when you were least expecting it. Teague has also been putting in work in the gym, both at the Berto Center and also his native Indianapolis, trying to get stronger and improve his outside shot.
If development for NBA players generally takes place between the second and fourth season, Teague realizes how pivotal this offseason is coming off a rookie year where he barely saw the floor. That's nothing new under Tom Thibodeau, just ask Jimmy Butler, and Teague seems to realize the value of staying ready to maximize his opportunity once it comes. Butler took control of his own future by being too good to bench once he got his shot after Luol Deng's hamstring pull last January; Teague wants to put himself in the same position this year.
The truth is Teague had an awfully quiet rookie season for a myriad of reasons, but that doesn't mean he still can't be an asset for the Bulls in the future. Life changed drastically for Teague a year ago, when he was selected No. 30 overall by the Bulls as a 19-year-old point guard. Teague was the No. 5 recruit in the country as a high school player and started all 40 games for one of the best college teams in recent memory, but what he saw in the NBA was still an entirely different experience on a number of levels.
The biggest adjustment Teague had to get used to was his extended time on the bench.
"Just not playing as much, that's not something I ever really had to deal with my whole career," Teague said Wednesday in a phone interview while promoting the work he's been doing with the Boys & Girls Club in Chicago. "That was something different. It helped me grow as a player. It helped me learn the game more. I got a chance to sit down and watch Kirk and Nate and those guys, see what they're doing on the floor and watch 'em be leaders. It's just something I had to deal with and something I'll learn from."
It's not like Teague was completely redshirted, though. He played 392 minutes in the regular season and 72 minutes in the playoffs, enough time to get his feet wet in the pro game while also realizing what he had to improve on.
For Teague, that meant a three-point stroke that was on full display in Vegas. Teague has spent the offseason working on developing his range, which has been a totally new experience for the guard.
"I've always been pretty quick, usually faster than the guys I played against so I didn't have to take outside shots as much when I was always getting to the rim," Teague said. "But on this level, everyone is just as quick, just as fast if not faster and tall and long, so you gotta grind on that outside shot."
How does one go about building a jumper? "Just repetition" according to Teague, with most of the work taking place at the Bulls' Deerfield-based practice facility.
"I've been in Chicago pretty much the whole time, back and forth. I stay in Chicago until Thursday, and then I go back to Indianapolis and play pick-up games and things. But you know I'm in touch with Thibs and Gar and those guys pretty much every week, because I'm always here. I'm always at the gym, they're always at the gym."
Another new experience for Teague was learning what it takes to play in an NBA defense. The reason young players rarely excel defensively is because it's just not taught or emphasized at the high school or AAU levels. Teague acknowledged that learning the other side of the ball under Thibodeau was initially jarring.
"Our defensive schemes were a lot different than what people are used to learning growing up," Teague said. "You know Thibs has a lot of different things he likes for us to do to make it difficult on the offense. I feel like that's a big part of why we have the best defense in the NBA."
"It takes a second to get everything down. It took me a little while to figure out all the sets we do and all the schemes we're running and traps we gotta do, and there's a lot of names for things. If you mess up your job on defense, you mess up the whole defense. You know, we work on a string. You gotta be ready."
Staying ready is perhaps the biggest point of emphasis for Teague this offseason, as basic as it sounds. There isn't an immediate opening at point guard on the Bulls with Derrick Rose ready to retake his throne and Kirk Hinrich still around to back him up, but Teague knows opportunity can present itself at any time. Hinrich fought through eight different injuries last season, and if it happens again this year, Teague will be expected to pick up the slack. And come on: there's no way Kirk Hinrich is playing 82 games next year.
Teague says Butler has been a huge help along the way this offseason, as someone who can relate to not playing much as a rookie.
"(Butler) was telling to make sure I stay in the gym with Thibs and these guys like I've been doing. Just putting that work in. He's another guy who tells me to leave it all up to opportunity. Anything can happen. When your chance comes up, you just gotta make the most of it."
Teague did get a chance earlier this offseason to show the work he's put in by playing on the Bulls' summer league team. He was expected to be the Bulls' best player in Vegas, and he was. Teague finished fifth in the Vegas league in assists by averaging 4.8 per game and was also eighth in scoring by averaging 18.3 points per game. That's not insignificant. While summer league performance doesn't indicate future success in the NBA, if Teague were to struggle there his future potentially wouldn't have looked as bright. Summer league was a test Teague aced, and one he had been waiting for.
"It was real exciting, real fun to get out there and play," Teague said. "Just show what I could do. I just wanted to get out there and be confident and show I can be a leader. Perform at a high level. Show 'em everything I've been working on this summer. I felt like I went out there did what I needed to do."
"That was the point of the whole thing, just to show Thibs what I can do. Let him know that I'm ready whenever my number is called. Let me know he can trust me."
Like the rest of Chicago, Teague is also excited to watch Rose play basketball again. Teague credits Hinrich and Nate Robinson as mentors last year, and said Rose also provided guidance during his rookie year.
"(Kirk, Nate and Derrick) helped me a lot. Just talking to me, telling me little things I might have been doing wrong. Telling me the right play to make, or just telling me about the things they've seen on the floor. From Derrick's standpoint, I learned a lot more from him just watching. Seeing how hard he worked, seeing the time he put in. It just shows you how to be a real pro."
Part of being a real pro is charitable work, and that's what Teague has been doing the last few days with the Boys & Girls Club.
"This is one of the most important things to me, doing things like this. To give back to the community. Giving these guys a chance just to experience things like this. This is something I didn't have as much growing up, I didn't do things like this. So I just want them to get a chance and make a difference."
The interview with Marquis was courtesy of Citibank, through the “Citi Cubs Kids” program which is a partnership between Citi, the Cubs and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Thanks to everyone involved for making it happen.