Rookie Teague takes major step in developmental process

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Rookie Teague takes major step in developmental process

Judging by his statisticsfive points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from the foul line, two assists and three reboundsMarquis Teague didnt have a major impact on Monday nights game. But for a 19-year-old, thrust into a primetime role, facing off with arguably the games top point guardat least active, with Derrick Rose on the shelf, though the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker would probably beg to differit was a huge step in his development.

However, Marquis Teague didnt act that way afterwards. He wasnt brash about itmaybe a bit nonchalant, in that way 19-year-olds can bebut he was genuine.

I wasnt nervous. I play against my teammates every day. Theyre just as good as anybody in this league, so Im comfortable out there. Im a basketball player. Im ready to play against anybody, the Indianapolis native explained. I was happy I went out there and had the opportunity to go out there, and compete, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get the win.

Every game I play in, I look at it as a learning experience because Im a rookie. Just take it and run with it, get better, he added. If you step on the court, youve got to be ready, no matter what time it is. Im not really fazed by the situation that Im in. it doesnt matter to me. Ive played in a lot of big games in my life, so its another game.

My confidence is the same. It never left. Its always going to be there. Im a basketball player. Thats how I feel.

Now, Teague didnt act as if he should suddenly usurp veterans Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson in the pecking orderafter all, the Bulls did lose and Rondos 20-point, 10-assist, nine-rebound, five-steal outing was a big reason why, with the All-Star making several key plays down the stretchbut it was certainly a moment that hell be able to look back on fondly one day. Just ask his teammates, coach and even the opposition.

I thought it was good. I thought he played real great. I thought he was aggressive, trying to get to the basket. I thought he really played Rondo tough and I think he really used his quickness, Rip Hamilton told CSNChicago.com, before recalling his own rookie-year moment, against veteran Allan Houston. It was fun. It was exciting. It was one of those things where you cant wait to get that opportunity. You just sit there and pay your dues, and when you get out there, you just try not to get too anxious.

But you couldnt get too excited because he was coming at you.

Added Joakim Noah: The young fella played really well. Hes a worker. Hes working really hard and hes just got to stay at it, stay in the playbook and know all the plays, keep grinding. Hes definitely a competitor.

Chimed in Luol Deng: Im proud of Marquis. Not playing in the beginning, staying ready, coming in early, working and I thought he did well tonight. He did more than well. He did great, I think. Its not easy coming in, a team like that, end of game, fourth quarter, clutch time and he wasnt afraid. Got the ball, drove, got fouls, made some plays.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who was familiar with Teagues game because his son, Hornets rookie Austin, was in the same high school class, also came away impressed.

He played terrific, playing with good speed and one thing you love about Thibs is he left him out there, which is terrific. I thought he was responsible, in a lot of way, for bringing them back, Rivers said. I don't think it's any fun to play against Rondo whether you're a 10-year guy or a one-year guy. Teague is a tough kid. I've watched him play for a long time because he and Austin played AAU against each other for a long time. He's a tough kid. I thought he handled Rondo pretty well.

Rondo, a fellow University of Kentucky product, told CSNChicago.com: He played aggressive. Strong going to the cup at the end of the game. He didnt shy away from making a play for his team, so hes a very young confident guard and he should be in this league for a long time.

Perhaps the person who can relate to Teague best on the Bulls is second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, who didnt get to experience a traditional rookie season, due to the lockout-shortened schedule, which also affected training camp and robbed him of a summer league. On a team with experienced, veteran players, Butler and Teague had the shared experience of being at the Berto Center almost all summer, enduring individual workouts together.

Im happy for him. He works extremely hard. He deserves it. Hes constantly in the gym and I know how it feels to be a rookie. Sitting over there, but when your names called, youve got to be ready. I feel like he performed to the best of his ability tonight, Butler told CSNChicago.com. I dont know if it was so much in the summer if it was when training camp hit because he had been through an NBA workout, an NBA-type summer, so when training camp hit, he was up and running. So, he was ready to go. Im not surprised, man. Im so proud of him because he works so hard and he knows his role, but he also knows that his role is going to be called upon every once in a while. Hes ready for it.

Even though we play different positions, I know how hes feeling mentally because thats how I was last year, so I tell him the same thing that Ronnie told me, that Griff told me, all these guys told me, which is be ready, continue to work, dont get too high, dont get too low, try to stay right in the middle and I think everything will level itself out, he continued. Mondays game was big. It builds his confidence, for one. But two, youre out there with Rondo. Hes guarding you, so youre making plays. Its a big confidence booster for him, for anybody, I think. You see those guys on TV for however many years and youre out there lining up against him. Youre like, Oh, I can do what he does. I can be that player.

Teague clearly remembers those summer workouts and for a player who was a highly-touted since his early high school days, it was an eye-opener, even with an older brotherJeff, the Atlanta Hawks starting point guardalready in the league. But after winning a college national championship and more importantly, being from Indianapolis, the biggest city in a hoops hotbed of a state, Teague felt prepared for the experience.

Coming from me, since Day 1, Ive been in the gym with Thibs going hard, harder than Ive ever went in my life. This is just a different level. Youve got to have a different work ethic to play on this level, he recalled. I had many of those. I had a lot of workouts in the summer, going with Thibs, doing two-a-days. There was a lot of times you were like, Man! This is serious on this level. I had a lot of those days.

Teague has been preparing for situations like Monday my whole life. Thats why you play the game, to play the best. Every night, youve got a top point guard youve got to compete with, so youve just got to be ready, he continued. :Growing up my whole life, Ive got a lot of basketball experience, playing with my brothers. Ive played against so many great players just in my city that I feel like could play on this level. Ive been playing against Courtney Lee since I was 11, 12. It just gave me a lot of experience.

If you step on the court, youve got to be ready, no matter what time it is. Im not really fazed by the situation that Im in. it doesnt matter to me. Ive played in a lot of big games in my life, so its another game.

Whether or not that mentality is approved of by his perfectionist head coach is another story, but Thibodeau, who has slowly seemed to warm up to the rookieout of necessity, if not by choicetacitly signed off on Teague, simply by virtue of throwing him to the wolves. Maybe not literally, but playing him for all of the fourth quarter, much of it against Rondo, was no easy task.

Played very well. I thought he played hard. Thats the first step, the coach explained. I liked the way he matched up with the speed. Barbosas extremely quick, so I thought his speed was good with that matchup and Rondos obviously super quick also, so I liked that matchup. I thought it got us going, got us playing with some energy.

Just his energy. I thought the speed and quicknesswhen youre dealing with Barbosa and Rondo, speed and quickness is enormousand then, we wanted to extend our defense a little bit, so Taj and Marquis gave us some energy, he went on to say, revealing why he played Teague the entire period and then recalling a crucial play the rookie made late in the game. On Marquis drive, I thought that was a tough call. I thought he made a strong move to the basket, probably could have gone either way, went against us, thats part of the game.

Countered Teague: Whatever Thibs asks me to do, thats what I was going to do. If he wanted me to come out, thats fine. Whatever he needed.

He just told me to go out there and play aggressive, using my speed to get to the rim, making plays for my teammates. Thats what I was trying to do, he added. I saw a few gaps I had in the first half that I didnt take, and my teammates told me to be aggressive and play my game, so thats what I tried to do.

Keep doing what youre doing, youngster. With his surprisingly impressive individual defense, explosiveness going to the basket and most importantly, fearlessnessyes, he has to work on his outside jumper or at least be more willing to take itTeague has an extremely bright future.

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

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AP

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

PITTSBURGH – There are certain trends through which the Blackhawks tend to go sometimes. They can be so-so against teams on the bubble or out of the postseason. But face a playoff-bound team and the Blackhawks usually come with a top-notch game.

Exhibit A on that came on Wednesday.

Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane each had two-point nights, and Marian Hossa scored his 25th of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game winless streak and now have a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the West.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots. Richard Panik scored his 22nd goal of the season. Bryan Rust had the Penguins' lone goal at 5:46 of the third.

The Penguins, much like the Blackhawks, entered this one with 103 points. The Penguins were without several injured players, including Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Trevor Daley. Still, it's the Penguins, and you can never take them lightly.

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

The Blackhawks got the early lead, then really pounced in the final five-plus minutes of the first period. The Blackhawks got stellar set-up passes from Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz and finishes to accompany them. Two of their goals (Marcus Kruger and Hossa) came in the final minute of the first period for that 4-0 lead.

The Penguins had the first six shots of the third but the Blackhawks would score on their first of the period when Tanner Kero, taking the turnover from Justin Schultz, finished on a breakaway.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

As far as first impressions go, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a good one on Wednesday.

The Chicago Fire's new German star smiled at every opportunity, said all the right things about playing hard and wanting to fit in with his new team and even elegantly danced around some 'tricky' questions.

Schweinsteiger opened by thanking fans for showing up to greet him at O'Hare on Tuesday and later said he has plenty left to give on the field.

"I'm 32 years old, I'm ready," Schweinsteiger said. "Of course I need more training sessions to have the right rhythm where I want to see myself. I want to use every minute to feel how it is, how the teammates are playing, which kind of runs they make, which kind of rhythm they have. So to know each other better, that is very important for me step-by-step and I hope you will get results soon because I don't like to lose or to draw."

The German's addition is a big deal to the Fire because he is a big name player who is drawing more attention to the team. That means the Fire will have to win more to capitalize and show the team is deserving of the extra attention.

Despite that extra attention, words of adoration from general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic saying he "can be the icon of the MLS in the future," Schweinsteiger said he is ready for the attention, but does not want to stand apart from his teammates.

"I had a lot of pressure in my career," Schweinsteiger said. "When you play a World Cup final or a Champions League final and the third time you have to win against Borussia Dortmund there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders so I can handle that. I don't want to say I'm a key player of Chicago Fire. Every player on the pitch has to be a key player and has to take the responsibility on the pitch and I would like just to get comfortable with myself and into the team so much as I can."

Talking about the importance of winning and showing humility? Check.

[Watch or listen to Bastian Schweinsteiger's full press conference here]

As for some of those 'tricky' questions, he was able to stay clean there as well. Will you root for the Cubs or Sox?

"First of all I like the Fire the most, of course," Schweinsteiger said.

Well played, Bastian.

But what about this one: Is the World Cup a realistic expectation for the Fire?

Sorry, what was that? Schweinsteiger smiled politely, said he didn't understand the question and avoided getting egg on his face while the Internet exploded in laughter that he was asked about the chances a club team winning an international competition.

Schweinsteiger is the new face of the Fire and that face smiled, waved and shook hands on Wednesday amid all the pageantry.

Media savvy? Check.

As for how he will perform on the field, that's to come soon. Paunovic only gave a subtle hint as to whether Schweinsteiger will play in Saturday's home match against Montreal.

"Obviously he is going to be available," Paunovic said. "We are not going to reveal our plans here, but we still have a talk to have and discuss how he feels and more things about the team and how we want to play. Be ready, just be ready. We'll see."