Derrick Rose has made headlines this preseason for obvious reasons, what with taking the court in live game action for the first time in 17 months. But Rose hasn’t been the only John Calipari alum making waves and significant improvements from last year this preseason.
Marquis Teague had his most impressive performance of the early season, scoring 12 points, grabbing four rebounds and handing out four assists in the Bulls’ 105-84 blowout victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night.
And for as well as Rose played – scoring 24 points in 28 minutes – the best stretch of play from a Bulls point guard may have come from the second-year Teague, who scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the second quarter to help extend Chicago’s lead to 23 at half.
“That’s what the point guard has to do: run the team,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Teague’s play. “I love the way he played in the first half, thought he was attacking and using his speed and I thought the second unit played very well.”
More impressive than the point total was the variety of ways he scored, showing a versatile array of offensive moves to free himself from Bucks point guards Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour: an 18-foot jumper, a layup, a 3-pointer, a runner and a free throw in the penalty.
The jumper and 3-pointer were noted improvement from last season, when he shot 32.2 percent and 14.3 percent, respectively, on the particular shots, per basketball-reference.com. Teague is stepping into his jumpers, shooting with more confidence and showing a fluidity to his jump shot that wasn’t there a year ago. It’s part of what was a busy summer for him in the gym, as well as advice from the coaching staff.
“Yeah they’ve been telling me to let it fly,” Teague said. “I make (jumpers) all the time in practice, they see me do it. So they’re telling me when it comes, just shoot the thing.”
Teague, who had averaged 6.0 points and 1.8 assists through five preseason games, saw extra run as the Bulls’ backup point guard because Kirk Hinrich still has not passed NBA protocol tests after suffering a concussion Friday night against the Pacers. But though Teague is the de facto “next man up,” in the words of Thibodeau, he still had to earn that time. Work in practice has done that, as well as going up against Rose in practice every day for the last five months.
“It’s just confidence,” Taj Gibson said. “You go against Derrick Rose every day you’re going to have confidence. He’s going up there, taking on big guys. One thing about point guards that you can tell his confidence is there is even after he gets his shot blocked a couple times he’s still going to the basket and getting smarter, he’s being more patient, taking care of the ball.”
[WATCH -- Rose: Still a long way to go]
All that work against Rose in practice has paid off, but on Monday night Teague actually found himself playing alongside his teammate in a two-guard set Thibodeau usually reserves for Rose and Hinrich. The stretch it was used in the second quarter allowed Rose to play off the ball and Teague to work more freely within the offense, with defenses clamped down on the former MVP.
“Playing with him is special, he makes it so easy.” Teague said, laughing, of playing with Rose. “Everybody’s watching him, you’re getting open shots, and he does all the work for you. you’ve just got to make the shot.”
Rose, a fellow pupil of head coach John Calipari when he was at the University of Memphis, wasn’t the only “Cal” alum in Monday night’s game.
Brandon Knight, who was selected No. 8 overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2011 NBA Draft after playing one season at Kentucky, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 24 minutes. Pegged as the starter after the Bucks dealt Brandon Jennings to Detroit, Knight told CSNChicago.com that playing against two former players of Calipari’s in Rose and Teague was an enjoyable experience.
“It’s fun. Just knowing where we came from and us all playing for the same guy [Calipari], a guy that looked out for our best interests, it’s fun," Knight said. "We’re coming together at this level and it’s like a celebration, but it’s always fun playing with guys that you played with or that you came from the same background.
“The main thing is just mindsets. He instills certain mindsets in all his players based on what they can and can’t do. And I think that’s just the main thing, the mindset of a competitive edge.”
It wasn't a perfect outing for Teague, who did turn the ball over twice and went 1-of-5 in the fourth quarter with three personal fouls. But part of that, Rose said, is finding the confidence to play through mistakes and not get down when things aren't going as smooth as they did in the second quarter.
"The last two years I think his confidence level was just down, and now he's getting the opportunity to play and play through his mistakes," Rose said of Teague. "As a rookie and being a point guard, you have to play through your mistakes. All these games we encourage him to do what he's been doing, and he's attacking."
Teague is showing that competitive edge in his second season. After a strong performance in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League, a new player has shown up in Chicago in Year 2. The 20-year-old still has a long way to go, but after Monday night’s performance it’s clear he has taken the next step.
“I’m just getting more comfortable playing with these guys, just trying to play under control and run the team,” Teague said. “I think I’m all-around better; outside shot, I’m more under control; just being a better point guard.”