Jeff Teague on his trade to Hawks: ‘I can’t be this lucky’

Hawks Jeff Teague returns to the Atlanta Hawks during a NBA basketball game at State Farm Arena on Saturday, January 18, 2020. The team obtained Teague and Treveon Graham from the Timberwolves in a trade for Allen Crabbe. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Hawks Jeff Teague returns to the Atlanta Hawks during a NBA basketball game at State Farm Arena on Saturday, January 18, 2020. The team obtained Teague and Treveon Graham from the Timberwolves in a trade for Allen Crabbe. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

At first, Jeff Teague didn’t really know how to react when informed Minnesota was trading him.

"Then, they said 'Atlanta,'" Teague said Saturday at State Farm Arena, before the Hawks' 136-103 loss to the Pistons. "And I was like, 'I can't be this lucky.' … I was happy. I couldn't believe it. The excitement kind of came. But now it's kind of hitting me all right now."

Believe it or not, Teague, who the Hawks acquired (with Treveon Graham) for Allen Crabbe, said he had been plotting to play for the Hawks again at some point in his career — he just didn't expect it would happen so soon.

But now he’s back in Atlanta, playing for the franchise that drafted him in 2009 and saw him develop into a crucial part of its success during its consecutive playoff run. Teague, who played seven seasons for the Hawks in his first stint, will enter free agency in the summer, and he said it’s a goal to continue playing in Atlanta.

“It was always like a little plan, and it just came a little earlier than I thought. … I knew I was going to be a free agent coming up this summer, and Atlanta’s always been a destination for me ever since I had been here,” Teague said.

“I always wanted to come back, and those things just kind of run through your head. And I look at the team and the needs and things like that I thought they may need. I was like, a backup veteran that can help a little bit trying to help lead the guys, I thought that could be my role.”

Teague will primarily act as a backup point guard for the Hawks behind starter Trae Young, which has been a huge hole the team needed to fill. Getting more bench production will be key, especially if Teague can keep the Hawks’ scoring efforts up with Young off the court.

More than that, though, Teague knows the young Hawks players will look to him as a leader.

That’s mostly what Teague and Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce discussed after news of the trade broke. In his 11th NBA season, Teague has more games under his belt than any Hawk on the roster, outside of Vince Carter.

“Just try to be a leader,” Teague said. “There’s a lot of young guys who are going to look to lean on you. They’re all really talented, but they’re young, so they haven’t been through some of the things that I’ve been through, played in some of the big games that I’ve played in. So they’re going to look at me a little more. And that’s cool, I’m here for that. I’ll try to help in any way I can on and off the court.”

Teague, who still owns a house in the area, remembers Atlanta fondly, so he's happy to be back. He played for the Hawks from the time he was drafted until he was traded to the Pacers in July 2016, and refers to Atlanta as where he "grew up."

“Then I found out it was one of the best cities in the world,” Teague said. “The people are great, the fans were always great to me. The people in the organization, from my first year to my last, were great. And I just love it.”

It’s typical for a player to brag on a city or franchise upon being traded there, maybe to foster goodwill, maybe to have a good attitude, maybe because it’s genuine. For Pierce, considering Teague’s history with the Hawks, he’s inclined to buy into Teague’s enthusiasm.

“I believe him from the standpoint that he spent the majority of his career here, still has a home here, is beloved here and is a great opportunity to come back to somewhere you’ve had success,” Pierce said. “So I do believe that. I do honestly take his word for it.”

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