Jeff Teague had a short answer, with it politely ending an interview, about his play this season.
“I’m dealing with an ankle injury,” the Hawks starting point guard said Sunday. “That’s OK. I’ll be back.”
Teague missed three games in November with a left ankle sprain. He has also turned the ankle several times since returning from that injury, most recently against the Bulls on Jan. 9, but hasn’t missed more than a few minutes each time. Teague has not been listed on the team’s injury report since returning from the missed games Nov. 15-18.
Teague has lacked consistency this season. His statistics are down a year after he made his first All-Star appearance averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists this season. The point total is his lowest since he averaged 12.6 points in 2011-12 in his first year as a starter. In making the All-Star Game, and helping the Hawks to a 60-win regular season and a berth in the Eastern Conference finals, Teague averaged 15.9 points and 7.0 assists.
Teague has watched – from the bench – as the Hawks dropped their last two straight games in the closing seconds. He sat for the final 18:49, including all of the fourth quarter, of Thursday’s 91-88 loss to the Kings. He finished with just four points, on 2 of 8 shooting, with four assists and three turnovers. Teague also missed the final 5:34 of Saturday’s 98-95 loss to the Suns. He finished with nine points, on 4 of 13 shooting, with three assists and five turnovers.
In both cases, backup Dennis Schroder has played in place of Teague.
“I’m on the team. I’m here. It’s a team game,” Teague said when asked his reaction to sitting down the stretch. “I’m a competitor. I want to be on the floor. It is what it is.”
Mike Budenholzer said Sunday he does not plan a lineup change. The coach pointed to big deficits the Hawks have found themselves in of late and the play of the bench to get the team back in the games with chances to win.
“We’ve been putting ourselves in some tough spots,” Budenholzer said. “That bench group (including Schroder), with their defense, is digging us out of some holes. Then we have starters out there. We usually have a mix of guys. But (the bench) defense, in general and including at the end of the game, has been good.”
Budenholzer acknowledged that Teague did not have a good game against the Kings. He added that Teague picked up his fifth foul against the Suns with 6:56 remaining.
“I really didn’t want him to foul out,” Budenholzer said. “I think that group was playing well. I went with it. I think defensively we’ve been a little bit better. Dennis has been putting pressure (on opposing players). He and Jeff were both doing it and both working their (butts) off.”
Over the past seven games, Teague is shooting .359 (28 of 78) with 34 assists and 18 turnovers.
Budenholzer said he doesn’t expect Teague’s slump to last long and he can easily return to All-Star form. The Hawks will need Teague at his best as they work to bring consistency to a season of ups and downs.
“He’s had a little spell here where he’s had some good shots that he hasn’t made and some finishing around the paint that I think he and I would like for him to make a few more shots,” Budenholzer said. “It would feel a lot different. He and I would love it if he was clicking a little bit better. At any given moment, he can flip it.”