PHILADELPHIA I just play basketball. Ive been playing against people my whole life, the 19-year-old said. Im just playing basketball. Its not a big deal to me. Its just like playing in the park.
It helps when those people include the likes of his brother Jeff, the Atlanta Hawks starting point guard, as well as injured Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon and Indiana starter George Hill.
Bulls rookie Marquis Teague, although he hasnt had extended playing time this season, looked like a veteran in Wednesday nights 96-89 road win over the 76ers.
His statisticssix points, four assists, two steals in 20 minutes of actionwere modest, but the poise he played with spoke volumes, on a night when regular starter Kirk Hinrich was sidelined due to injury.
He did an admirable job on Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday, an All-Star candidate, on the defensive end, distributed the ball to his teammates, got in the lane at will, pushed the tempo, only committed one turnover and most importantly, knocked down two clutch free throws down the stretch to help the Bulls seal the deal.
Well, I see how hes working every day in practice, but hes also shown, in the minutes that hes gotten, that hes played well. In the Boston game, I thought he played very well. In this game, I thought Kirks been hurt before. When hes out, Nate steps up. He does his job and Marquis comes in, and does his. And Marquis is just going to continue to get better and better. Hes a bright kid, working hard and hes improving, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards, before explaining the rationale for leaving Teague in the game in crunch time.
Just the way the game was going. I thought the unit was playing well together on the floor. I thought his quickness, when youre dealing with the speed and quickness of Holiday, I thought he could match up with that speed and youve got to try to make a guy like that work for his points. Hes a load, hes an elite point guard and I thought Marquis did all he could to get over screens, try to get back in front of the wall, hustled and I thought that was important.
Luol Deng added: Man, its huge. Kirk went down, were trying to find answers, he comes in. Im not surprised. The kid, hes been coming in early. He hasnt played yet, hes staying late, hes staying with the coaches. Im proud of him. Tonight, we really believe him, Jimmy and Taj won us this game.
The soft-spoken Teague said that he kept his approach simple against the Sixers and that he enjoyed the rowdy atmosphere. His demeanor, which seemingly never changes was evident in the Bulls' narrow home loss to Boston last month, when he matched up with Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo, but the road is a different environment.
Just wanted to be ready. Just doing whatever my team needed to help us win. Went out and defend the ball, give good pressure. Just make it tough on them and run the offense, Teague, a prolific scorer in high school and national champion at Kentucky during his lone college season, said.
It was great. It was fun. Just got a chance to go out there on the road with my team and get a win. Thats always great when you come out on top, so it just felt good.
I just like the fact that I was playing good defense. Thats what I like to do, come out and just defend, show energy on the defensive end, just pick up energy. I got pressured a little too much at the end. I let him get in me. I should have made an easier play or something, just letting Jrue Holiday get in me, continued the Indianapolis native.
I just take whatever the defense gives me. If Ive got to score, Im going to score. If Ive got a pass, Im going to make the pass to one of my teammates. I played with different teams since Ive been in high school. In high school, I played with teams that werent as good, so I had to score a lot of points. Now, Im playing with guys who are on a higher level, so its easier to make a good pass to them because you know theyre going to score the ball.
Predictably, Thibodeau wouldnt commit to giving the youngster more minutes.
Well see, Thibodeau said. Obviously when Kirk comes back, everyone comes back, but everyone has to stay ready. You never know what happens.
If Hinrich is hurt again, Robinson gets injured or Thibodeau simply decides to put him in the game, Teague will be unfazed.
Whenever he calls my name, Ill be ready, he said. Ill be ready to play.