Jeff Teague can thank Lee Mayberry's broken foot for all the assistance he's getting these days from Mike Bibby.
Bibby didn’t have the luxury of easing into the NBA and learning his way around before being thrust into a starting role. Mayberry was the incumbent starter at point guard in Vancouver as Bibby entered his rookie season, but he broke his foot on the first day of training camp.
"I think it was 36 minutes into the first day of camp," Bibby said about the time he had to sit back and learn from the veteran. "I got thrown into the fire."
Teague, the Hawks' rookie point guard, has a cushion with Bibby in place and veterans such as Jamal Crawford and even Joe Johnson around to assist.
As the only rookie on the Hawks' roster, Teague is getting a lot more instruction than he his razzing from his teammates, which is a bit of departure from the normal process.
"Anything I see I'm going to try and help him with, on both ends of the floor," Bibby said. "Even if we're scrimmaging each other, if I see something I'm going to make sure and try and get him in the right spot. I didn't really get that when I came into the league. We had a lot of good guys, but we were mostly a young team. Shareef [Abdur-Rahim] was a vet, and he was a year older than me.
"The older guys helping the younger guys is just a part of what we all do, I think. You teach the next man. That's just the right thing to do."
It's an approach Teague appreciates a week into his first NBA training camp. He was prepared for whatever was thrown at him, buthe acknowledged to being a pleasantly surprised by his initiation.
"I'm having fun so far," Teague said with a cautious grin. "I think this is just the perfect fit for me. You have a veteran point guard that's willing to teach. I mean, he's teaching me a lot of things. And then you have a bunch of guys that have been in the league five or more years and they're trying to teach you things as well. So it's been really easy for me to learn on the fly."
That's not to say Teague has escaped all of the rituals that come with rookie status. He is the designated towel gofer in the locker room. Coach Mike Woodson makes sure that Teague is involved in every drill.
"I'm not mad about that," Teague said. "It's going to make me better. I might get a little tired, but that's just something you have to push through and keep going. Hey, I'm the only rookie, so I knew there was going to be some things that fell to me. But you can't complain. You've got to do whatever it takes."
If there's a noticeable change in the way Teague is being treated, compared to past rookies, there's good reason for it, Woodson said.
"I think his teammates see it like we see it as coaches," Woodson said. "We haven’t had a young point guard like Teague since I've been here, a kid that possess all the different kinds of skills that he does. He can't be anything but a positive to your ball club, so you've got to help him because he can help us."
Still, Woodson said he will challenge Teague to assert himself more and to command the floor when he's out there, regardless of what other players are with him.
"I do think that it's good for him that there are veterans in front of him," Woodson said. "But I don't want him to feel by being a rookie that he's not a part of what we're doing. Because he has a chance, with the skills he possesses, to be a pretty good point guard in this league. That's why I'm going to challenge him more and I'm going to demand his teammates do the same.
"Because sometimes rookies can get lost in the shuffle if you're not tough enough. I don’t want this rookie to get lost in the shuffle, because he's a natural point guard that is going to play this position in the league for a long time."
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.