Teague expects to fit in well with the Bulls


Jul 2

Dating back to when John Paxson took over as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Bulls in the spring of 2003, the team has placed a premium on drafting players who come from winning collegiate programs.

When Gar Forman was named General Manager six years later, that trend continued. So when the Bulls found themselves on the clock last Thursday with the NBA Draft’s 29th pick, it came as no surprise when they used it to select Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague.

“We think Marquis is a real fit for this organization and this team, both on the court and off the court,” said Forman as the Bulls formally introduced Teague on Monday at the Berto Center. “Obviously, he’s a very talented young man who has had success at a very high level, helping lead Kentucky to a national championship. We feel he’ll also be a real fit off the floor with the culture that’s been created here. We’ve talked about his competitive drive, his work ethic, and the fact that he’s been a winner every step of the way.”

Forman reiterated what he expressed on draft night—that the Bulls were surprised to find Teague still available when it was time for their selection at No. 29.

Saying the Bulls had Teague projected to be a top 20 pick, it made the decision to take him that much easier. And there wasn’t an ounce of dissention when it came time to submit their selection to NBA Commissioner David Stern.

“As our staff talked about it and went through different scenarios, it was unanimous from Tom [Thibodeau] and the coaching staff to the scouting staff, to John and myself,” said Forman. “If Marquis Teague was there, we were going to be excited to have him as Chicago Bull.”

Based on Teague’s comments Monday, he’s equally thrilled to land in Chicago and be part of a team which has had the best regular season record in the NBA the last two seasons.

“I was pretty surprised,” said Teague of winding up with the Bulls. “I didn’t have any workouts for this team and I didn’t really know where I was going to land. When they picked me, I was just happy to be a part of this program. I’m ready to get things started.”

Teague will likely often rely on his experience at Kentucky, where he started all 40 games at point guard and shared the floor with a group that included five teammates who were also selected in last week’s NBA Draft.

It was a season that culminated in a 38-2 record and a national championship for the Wildcats. For Teague, it provided an invaluable opportunity to not only win at a high level, but go up against the best amateur players in the country, including the draft’s top two overall picks in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, on a daily basis in practice.

“It gave me a lot of confidence going against those guys in practice every day,” said Teague. “Playing with those guys only helped me elevate my game each and every day.”

Forman agreed and elaborated on why he expects Teague to fit in so well with the Bulls.

“Marquis played against the top competition in America in the SEC and then through the NCAA Tournament,” said Forman. “It’s also important that he played for a coach like Coach Calipari, where there were a lot of demands placed on him.”

Forman added that he and his staff watched Teague throughout the season and took note of his steady growth. But Teague saved his best for last.

“By the time they got to the NCAA Tournament, he was playing at a very high level,” said Forman of Teague, whose best performance of the season came in Kentucky’s second tournament game against Iowa State when he recorded 24 points and seven assists. “So it’s a plus. He’s been a winner, he’s experienced winning, and he’s experienced playing in big games. It will help him with his adjustment to the NBA.”

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau echoed Forman’s comments, calling Teague’s season at Kentucky a “big plus.”

“Now, he’s got to get out there and he’s got to start to work and understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Thibodeau. “He’ll see that the speed and intensity of the game is a little different and the rules are different, so he has to learn that part of it. But he’ll make steady progress. This is a big summer for him.”

That process will begin right away with informal workouts at the Berto Center. And while no 19-year old can truly be prepared with exactly what to expect at the next level, Teague believes he has a little bit of an idea based on conversations with his older brother Jeff, a point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, as well as playing for Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“My brother told me about the Bulls and he said they are big on defense,” said Marquis. “Playing for Coach Cal, he plays the same style. He likes to defend and run the ball. So I feel like I should fit in great with this team. I feel I should do good things here.”

Given that Jeff Teague has three seasons of professional experience under his belt, it’s likely he will hear from his younger brother in Chicago a lot over the next 12 months.

“We’re pretty competitive people,” said Marquis of Jeff. “We had a lot of battles in the backyard growing up together. It helped me become the player I am today. I love my brother and thank him for everything he’s done for me.”

Along those lines, Jeff has already imparted some wisdom onto Marquis as he makes the transition from college to the NBA.

“He told me to stay humble,” said Marquis of his big brother’s advice. “Each game, you’ve got somebody trying to come after your position. So be ready each and every day, work hard and do what your team needs you to do to be a winner.”

As for Teague’s mentality on how he’ll approach the transition, it’s simple.

Kia Draft 2012 logo“I just want to come in every day and work hard, try to get better, and help my team in any way I can to win,” said Teague. “I’m ready to come in and work.”

When asked about what he does well, Teague cited some of the things Forman had previously outlined, namely his ability to excel in transition. And he also touched on defense, which Thibodeau certainly liked to hear.

“My strengths are I can attack the rim and create plays for my teammates,” said Teague. “I can defend on the ball.”

As for what he wants to improve upon, Teague said he’ll work on his outside shot, as well as his off the ball defense.

He’ll have an opportunity to do both as 2012 NBA Summer League approaches. Beginning July 17, the Bulls will play five games in Las Vegas. Bulls forward Jimmy Butler is also expected to join Teague on the squad.

“He met every challenge in college and we expect him to do the same here,” said Thibodeau of Teague. “The first step is getting into the gym to start working and learning our system. Learn his teammates and get ready for summer league. Just go step by step.”

Depending on how well Teague progresses this summer, he could potentially see some substantial playing time as the 2012-13 NBA season gets underway. That’s because with Derrick Rose out while he rehabs from a torn ACL, the Bulls will need some help at point guard.

Until then, Teague said he’s excited to have the former NBA MVP around to help him through is rookie campaign.

“I’ll be able to learn a lot from him,” said Teague of Rose. “He’s one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best. So I’ll take advantage of that every single day, just try to come in, compete and get better.”

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