SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In six preseason games, Chicago Bulls rookie point guard Marquis Teague is averaging one point and one turnover in five minutes of action. The first-round pick has struggled to find a rhythm and looks lost at times on the floor.
At just 19, and just a few months removed from Kentucky Wildcats, Teague was always viewed as more of a project this season. But with the groin injury to Kirk Hinrich, the up-and-down play of Nate Robinson and the fact that Derrick Rose will be rehabbing his knee injury for much of the season, Teague has suddenly found himself pushed into a larger spotlight as a backup point guard. Despite his lack of experience and his unimpressive preseason to date, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau remains publicly confident that Teague could step in and play meaningful minutes once the season begins.
"If you're on the roster, if you're in that room, you can play," Thibodeau said before Friday night's preseason finale against the Indiana Pacers. "And so when you're called upon you have to be ready and you have to play well. Each day, that's all I want him to concentrate on is knowing what his job is and have the ability to go out and do his job. As a point guard, I don't measure him by how he's scoring. It's how he's running the team and he's capable of doing well."
Hinrich echoed his coach's sentiments.
"I think Marquis is doing very well," Hinrich said. "I think he's doing very well every day. He's coming in, working, he's going to get his chance and he's doing a good job of just preparing himself."
Thibodeau said earlier in the preseason that he'd rather not send players to the D-League, preferring to keep players around the team and learn that way. If Teague continues to struggle it will be interesting to see what the organization decides to do with the rookie, especially if Hinrich's groin injury doesn't improve before the season begins.
Back in the Bend: Friday's game marks the sixth time the Bulls have played in South Bend and it's just the second time in the last 30 years they have been here. The Bulls lost to the Pacers during an exhibition game in South Bend in 2000. Bulls executive GM John Paxson, a Notre Dame alum, proudly wore a green tie to the game.
The last word: Hinrich, on what he'd like to see his team improve on most before the season starts:
"Just consistency. It's going to get ratcheted up another level come regular season and I think we've done some really good things this preseason, definitely in stretches. We just need to do it for longer stretches of time."