Jeff Teague enjoyed his time with the Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS -- Hours after so many players departed the Minnesota Timberwolves via Tuesday night’s trades, a familiar face made his way back to Target Center. There was Jeff Teague at the Atlanta Hawks’ shootaround Wednesday, laughing and playing shooting games with his new teammates, just weeks after he was dealt by Minnesota.
It was the type of levity he always brought to Minnesota’s practices and morning shoots. Back in Atlanta, where he spent the first part of his career, Teague is finding his comfort zone.
“I think they’re starting to get used to me,” Teague said.
As for his former teammates, well, a third of them are no longer in Minnesota after the four-team trade that sent out five Wolves players and brought four back. Still, many of the best friendships Teague formed in his time here remain. The point guard grew close with Josh Okogie, Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins over his 2½ seasons in Minnesota. He still talks to each of them, as well as Memphis point guard Tyus Jones, his backup in Minnesota for two seasons.
“I had an opportunity to meet some great people here,” Teague said. “I met some lifelong friends on the team. It was great to me. I had a good time, I enjoyed the city, the people was cool with me.”
In the summer of 2017, Teague joined what appeared to be an up-and-coming franchise poised to start a long run of playoff appearances. That’s what Minnesota did in Teague’s first season, snapping a 15-year playoff drought. Teague thinks the Wolves would have earned a top-4 seed and home-court advantage in Round 1 had all-star guard Jimmy Butler not gotten hurt.
Still, the energy Minnesota’s success created is something the point guard remembers fondly.
“We saw something special,” Teague said. “Just seeing the atmosphere, that was cool to be a part of that.”
But that was the Wolves’ last sniff of the postseason during Teague’s tenure. Butler asked to be traded and eventually was early the next season, and Minnesota suddenly just wasn’t good anymore. Teague was hurt for half of the season, and Minnesota entered some form of rebuild mode. That’s where the franchise was planted at the start of this season, too.
Teague had signed with designs on playing for coach Tom Thibodeau and alongside the likes of Butler, Taj Gibson and Co. Eventually, “everything” changed, he admitted.
“Coaching staff, the expectations, the team,” Teague said. “We went from competing to be a contender to rebuilding, almost. So, in two years, it was like a whole different overhaul. It was pretty extreme, but I embraced it. I liked all of it. Enjoyed all the coaches and all the players, all my teammates, it was all fun.”
Teague received a nice ovation from the Target Center faithful on Wednesday, a nod to his contributions to the franchise. But the impact he made went beyond the court, according to his teammates.
“He taught me a lot of different things,” Dieng said. “He’s a great man. That’s very important. All this basketball stuff is going to end, but the person is more important. I think Jeff is a special person.”
Allen Crabbe returned to the Wolves lineup Wednesday after missing the previous three games with a knee injury. Minnesota had Hopkins star senior guard Paige Bueckers on hand at Wednesday’s game as part of its celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.