“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.”