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Guard Jeff Teague eager to join Milwaukee Bucks

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Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 11, 2013

Restricted free agent Jeff Teague is looking for a reunion party.

It could come Saturday if the Atlanta Hawks do not match the Bucks' four-year, $32 million offer sheet to the 25-year-old point guard.

Teague signed the offer late Wednesday and the Hawks have a 72-hour period to match it or let Teague go to Milwaukee.

In a phone interview Thursday morning, Teague made it clear he wants to be part of the Bucks.

“I'm definitely excited at the opportunity to come back to work with Larry Drew,” Teague said. “The Bucks have a good team, a young nucleus and guys that are ready to take the next step. I can help.”

Teague had dinner with Drew in Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

“I think after one call he knew this is where he wanted to be,” said Teague's Indianapolis-based agent, J.R. Hensley. “He's familiar with Larry already and that's the icing on the cake. They can continue to grow together.

“It's a new challenge. It's just refreshing to be part of an organization that sees him as a building block for the future.”

The Hawks selected German point guard Dennis Schroder in the first round of the June draft (No. 17 overall) and also have veteran Lou Williams and Shelvin Mack in the backcourt.

Hensley said Teague was frustrated by the Hawks' lack of interest and phoned team president and general manager Danny Ferry to inform him he did not want to return to Atlanta.

“I'm nervous,” Teague said of the waiting game which will play out until Atlanta makes its decision. “I really want to be here. I thank Milwaukee for giving me this opportunity and taking a chance on me.”

If Teague does come to the Bucks, it certainly will spell the end of Brandon Jennings' four-year tenure as the team's point guard. Jennings, also a restricted free agent, started 80 games last season and averaged 17.5 points and a career-best 6.5 assists.

Teague said he would be excited to play with O.J. Mayo, who has agreed to a three-year, $24 million free-agent deal with Milwaukee. “I used to play AAU against him,” Teague said.

And the former Wake Forest star said he is also familiar with Bucks center Larry Sanders from his days at Virginia Commonwealth.

“I've always seen his ability and the way he can change shots,” Teague said.

Teague said his personal goals in basketball fit nicely with the Bucks' team aspirations.

“I want to get better every year,” he said. “I like to get everybody involved. At times you have to take the scoring upon yourself. But I take pride in it (sharing the ball) and it makes guys want to play with you.”

He ranked 12th in the league in assists last season at 7.2 per game and was third in field goal percentage among Eastern Conference guards at 45.1 percent.

Teague said he is working to improve his 3-point consistency. He took a career-high 248 3-point attempts last season and shot 35.9 percent from 3-point range.

“I'm looking for 40 percent this year,” he said.

He has been known as a skilled ball handler since his days at Pike High School in Indianapolis, and he grew up playing against other players who have become NBA regulars, including Mike Conley Jr., Eric Gordon and George Hill.

“That's why they call it the basketball capital,” Teague said of Indianapolis and his home state.

Teague said he hit it off with Drew from the moment they met, when Teague was a first-round pick of the Hawks in 2009 and Drew was still an assistant coach.

“As a rookie you usually get attached to an assistant, and he was the guy,” Teague said. “Me being a point guard and he had played that position in the NBA, we talked about basketball and life.

“When he got the head coaching job, I always was behind him. He gave me an opportunity.”

Drew was head coach for the Hawks during the past three years and elevated Teague to a starting role.

Teague started just 10 games in his first two seasons in Atlanta but blossomed during the lockout-shortened season in 2011-12, starting all 66 games and averaging 12.6 points and 4.9 assists.

Last season Teague appeared in 80 games and started 78 while averaging 14.6 points, ranking third-best on the team. He learned to be more aggressive while working with a high-scoring duo in Josh Smith and Al Horford.

The Hawks are restructuring their squad without Smith, who signed a lucrative free-agent deal with Detroit. They have signed former Utah forward Paul Millsap in free agency and brought back Kyle Korver on a four-year, $24 million deal.

Former Hawks center Zaza Pachulia is heading for Milwaukee in free agency after agreeing to a three-year, $15 million contract last week.

Now Teague hopes to join Pachulia with the Bucks.

“The big key is going to an organization he can develop a relationship with,” Hensley said. “And we don't think he felt that in Atlanta.”



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