Former Pistons draft pick and current French League pro baller Kim English tweeted this the other day:
Kyrie and Jeff Teague’s 1 on 1 battle last night, was a clinic on the evolution of the NBA point guard!
— Kim English (@Englishscope24) December 27, 2013
When Florida-based fan David Collins replied to ask, “when did Teague break out like this?” Doug Gottlieb with CBSSports replied, “this year.” Then Collins asked, “did anyone see it coming?”
Why yes, yes we did, David.
HawksHoop editor Bo Churney was on top of Teague’s emergence early. Gothic Ginobili’s Aaron McGuire may have been the first to suggest that Teague’s level of play this season might warrant All-Star consideration. And I have been tracking Teague’s season closely myself.
And then, in the midst of all these high expectations for Teague and the Hawks, Al Horford was lost indefinitely with a second pectoral muscle tear. How does the loss of Horford impact Teague’s All-Star prospects this season? We should know the answer to that question in the next 30 days. In that period of time, Eastern Conference coaches will make the evaluations that will inform their votes for the All-Star reserves.
What needs to happen for Teague to remain in consideration? I believe it is going to take a determined effort on the part of Teague’s teammates to have his back and not allow this team to slip in the standings, despite the brutal schedule that lies ahead in January. The Hawks are going to need passionate play and key contributions from unsung members of the roster. In other words, exactly what happened last night, with Pero Antic making a circus shot to force overtime and allow the Hawks to hold off division opponent Charlotte, needs to keep happening.
The Hawks’ season to this point is divided into two stretches separated by the loss in San Antonio on Dec. 2nd. Upon losing to the Spurs on Tim Duncan’s shot with a fraction of a second remaining, the Hawks had lost five of six to fall below .500 at 9-10. Since then, the Hawks are 8-3 and have become entrenched in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games up on the Washington Wizards.
Included in those five losses in late November were losses to Orlando and Boston, the next two teams the Hawks will face as they attempt to close out 2013 on a positive note despite the loss of Horford. If the Hawks hope to avoid a free fall in the standings, the team cannot continue to lose to basement-dwelling Eastern Conference teams. The losses to the Magic and Celtics, among the most disheartening losses of this young season, must be avenged.
When Danny Ferry and Mike Budenholzer proposed to import a winning culture from the San Antonio Spurs organization, many questioned how it was possible to import a winning culture without the winning talent that San Antonio has possessed for more than a decade. Over the next few weeks, it’s possible we may get an answer. If ever there was a time for the franchise to prove that its culture and system can be more than the sum of their parts, this is the time. Teague’s chances of making the All-Star team and receiving the recognition many of us feel he deserves will be hanging in the balance.