Besides each having an older brother also in the NBA, the Bulls' two rookies don't have much in common. Except, of course, the usual rookie struggles.
Marquis Teague is 19 years old, a first-round pick with a guaranteed contract after an amateur career that included winning a national championship in his lone college season at the University of Kentucky. Following his high school days, in which he was ranked as one of the nation's top players early on, he was destined to play on basketball's highest level and was considered to be an even better prospect than his brother Jeff, the starting point guard for the Atlanta Hawks.
Chicago native Ryan Allen is 24 years old, an undrafted rookie from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a mid-major program. The journey of his brother Tony, the starting shooting guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, has been well-documented over the years--an afterthought on Chicago's prep scene until his senior year at Crane High School on the West Side, he attended two junior colleges before leading Oklahoma State to the Final Four alongside former Bulls guard John Lucas III--but the younger Allen's saga of playing at two high schools, a post-graduate prep school and two junior colleges gives him a leg up in terms of mileage.
What Teague and Allen do share is, though they've struggled to get playing time in actual games this preseason--Allen has appeared in one contest, matching up with his brother when the Grizzlies were in town; Teague, who the organization is obviously more invested in, has played 25 minutes in five games--is a willingness to learn.
"I've learned a lot about the game. Just getting coached by Thibs, a future Hall of Famer, it's amazing. Being teammates with Booz, Rip, Luol, players that have played in the league for 10-plus years. Just being around those guys, you get a feel for what you need to do to excel at this level. My brother's been around, Derrick's been around, so really just showing me what hard work can get you and being consistent with that," Allen, a defensive specialist, told CSNChicago.com. "I'm just learning a lot. I'm just learning all the plays, seeing mistakes that other guys make, building off those things and just being ready. My brother, he sat on the bench for a few years in Boston cheering and he finally got his chance, and he made it happen, so I've seen it all. I've pretty much prepared myself for everything. I'm just ready. This is a process."
By no means is Allen a loudmouth, but compared to Teague, he's Nate Robinson when it comes to talking, at least to the media. Still, he shared similar sentiments.
"I think it's been pretty good. I'm still trying to learn more. Just trying to take it all in and use it as a learning experience," Teague told CSNChicago.com. "Just different teams, playing for a different coach, trying to figure out what he wants you to do and things like that. So, it's just starting to adjust and figure out how to put your game in the system."
Teague was billed as a speedster and on certain plays, his explosiveness is evident, but more often than not, he appears to be over-thinking on the court, playing not to mistakes. In that regard, he's gotten advice from fellow point guards Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson, as well as the sidelined Derrick Rose.
"I'm just kind of holding back. Pretty much not being aggressive," admitted Teague, who played with five other NBA draft picks last season. "I've talked to Rose. He just told me to shoot the ball. He said, 'You've got to shoot.' The way our offense is, the point guard has to shoot the ball. He was just telling me to be aggressive."
In Allen's case, he's already outlasted most of his fellow non-guaranteed training-camp invitees, some of whom--the recently-waived Kyrylo Fesenko and swingman Andre Emmett--have prior NBA experience. His odds to make the Bulls' regular-season roster remain long, but he's endeared himself to both teammates and coaches with his work ethic and demeanor, which isn't surprising since his humility is eerily reminiscent of Rose, his childhood friend.
Privately, sources believe that he could be the proverbial basketball journeyman, perhaps starting out in the D-League or overseas and polishing his raw offensive game before making it in the NBA, similar to players Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has coached in the past, such as former Knicks star John Starks. Allen's stated of objectives of being able to "defend, go out and play hard, bring a lot of energy and hit open shots," as well as his selflessness, could go a long way in his professional future.
"Same as Day 1, really not even thinking about it. Just one day at a time. My main thing right now is just helping the team in any way that I can. My goal is to make the team better. It's not only just to make the team, but to make the team better, as well. That's just what it is because I've been a fan before I was here and I'm always going to be a fan, and support the team 100 percent. So whatever happens, happens. But I'm just here to help the team and get better every day," explained Allen, grew up in walking distance of the United Center. "Defense comes easy to me. I can play offense, as well, but I'm so good defensively, my offense is kind of overlooked. I can score the ball if that's what needed for me to do. I can do it, but defense is where I'm going to hang my hat and I'm going to get things done to help this team."
For Teague, his progress is under far more scrutiny, not only by coaches, but Bulls fans, who note his pedigree--like Rose, he was coached by John Calipari and experienced team success, so with the former league MVP currently on the shelf, it would seem to some observers that he should be an immediate contributor--and recall the fact that the last time the Bulls drafted a point guard with only a year of college basketball under his belt, he won the Rookie of the Year award. But the Indianapolis native, who says coaches have singled out his weak-side defense as needing room for improvement, has put it all in perspective, particularly with his former college teammates, including No. 1 overall pick and Chicagoan Anthony Davis, all citing the typical first-year ups and downs when they commiserate.
"Everybody's been saying that they're trying to figure it out, too. It's been up and down. People have been playing good, some people have been struggling. Everybody's just saying they're trying to figure it out. We're all in the same stage really," said Teague, whose brother also struggled as a rookie before earning more minutes in his second season. "I'm playing with some of the best players in the NBA that know how to win, know how to play playoff basketball, so I feel like this is the best situation for me to get better."