Hawks savor their point-guard profusion

They come from vastly different backgrounds, different continents, even. And certainly different barbers. But if there is one thing that both Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder share, it is the frustration of being confined to training wheels throughout the beginnings of their NBA lives.

Under Mike Woodson and a little bit of Larry Drew, Teague was never quite trusted to run the point for the Hawks. It took a regime change for him to flourish.

Then it was Schroder’s turn to molder, as Mike Budenholzer kept him in protective custody throughout his rookie season (2013-14).

So, a bond of sort began to form between the two young point guards, based more on their halting initiation into the NBA than on the undeniable talent they display today.

“I don’t think he knew about how I didn’t play in the beginning, and in his rookie season he had to go through the same situation,” Teague recalled. “I tried my best to tell him to stay positive. It turns out that it usually works out for the best.”

Certainly, it seems to be working out quite well. No complaints from the Hawks, who find themselves in possession of two point guards under the age of 28 (Schroder is only 22), either of whom are capable of owning both ends of a court.

In the NFL, you can’t find enough decent quarterbacks to spread in one thin layer over the breadth of the league. The shortage is appalling. And here are the Hawks with an almost shameful abundance of those who do equivalent work in a smaller space.

In this young season, as of mid-week, there was only one set of point guards listed among the top 35 at their position in points, assists and steals per game. That would be Teague and his German sidekick with the gold vein in his hair, Schroder.

The uniqueness of this situation is not lost on either locker room at Philips Arena.

Ask one evening over on the visitors’ side just how many teams can summon such a pairing, and you’ll hear a grateful, “Not many — and I’m glad,” from Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell.

And over on the home side, there’s a definite fondness for the arrangement.

“I think (the combination of the two) is special,” Teague said. “You don’t give the defense a break. When I’m in or he comes in, it’s the same momentum, same speed, same everything.”

All that’s left is for Budenholzer to figure out how to work this double-barreled point-guard contraption.

Playing them separately is the common solution, which yields the comforting knowledge that Teague can catch his breath without fear of the game going all zombie apocalypse in his absence.

Their personalities may contrast. Following the morning shoot-around before last week’s game with New Orleans, Schroder emerged from the locker room aboard a hoverboard, a toy that looks like the love child of a Segway and a skateboard. Both Teague’s feet are more commonly planted on the ground.

Schroder is the more natural extrovert, growing into the louder of the two as he has become more comfortable with the culture of his team and of the NBA.

But it’s just that they bring so many of the same traits to a game that there seems an interchangeable quality to them (though not completely, because of Teague’s greater experience and his more mature decisions with the ball). Both are quick as a lightning strike. They seem to ride a zip line to the rim. And whether it’s by Teague’s canniness in the passing lanes or by Schroder’s end-to-end harassment, both can be defensive difference-makers.

And the similarities likely will increase as the co-pilot attempts to become more like the pilot. Schroder is a compulsive borrower. With some offseason sessions with Kyle Korver, he looked to borrow a better shot. And from Teague he has looked to acquire a greater subtlety for his game.

“The first year I just run one tempo, I didn’t change speed like I do now,” Schroder said.

“I watched a lot of film of (Teague) and (San Antonio’s) Tony Parker. And Jeff was telling me in practice, too. He made everything really understandable for me. He changed my whole game with changing speed and knowing how to attack, knowing how to pass the ball when somebody is collapsing. I learned a lot from him.”

Budenholzer also is faced with the wrinkle of when to put the two of them on the court together, an alignment that bears fruit on occasion. The results, Budenholzer said, “have been a little bit mixed, but we feel it’s going to be something that’s helpful for us as we get through the season.”

The coach will explain how in this pick-and-roll league having both point guards on the floor simultaneously doubles the options to run that fundamental play. Against that, he said, he must balance the requirement that the Hawks don’t lose much from rebounding or defending taller lineups.

Schroder gets at the benefit of playing with Teague very directly: “I like to play with Jeff. I think we make the game real fast.”

However the point-guard combination is deployed, the Hawks know that it’s going to be unlike any other. And unlike most two-quarterback systems, this one is working.

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