Jeff Teague played with new teammate Jamal Crawford years ago in Atlanta and his brother Marquis once played with Taj Gibson, another new teammate, in Chicago.
Other than that, you would think Teague is fairly unfamiliar with the Timberwolves — a team the point guard only played twice a season in his first eight NBA seasons, right?
You’d be wrong.
Turns out the Wolves have been his team of choice whenever he plays NBA 2K, the simulation video game in which Teague now can be his own virtual self beside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
“Seriously, that was my team in 2K because of Andrew and Karl,” Teague said. “And now it’s definitely going to be my team in 2K.”
Until Wiggins and Towns came along, Teague had the same opinion of Minnesota and the Wolves as anyone else.
“When we came here and played Minnesota, especially the first two years, all I can remember is that it was cold,” he said. “Then as the years got more and more and Andrew and Kat got here, I started looking at them like, ‘Man, that’s an explosive team. That’s a really good team.’ And I started playing 2K with them.”
The Wolves officially introduced Teague and Gibson as their newest players Monday while they also worked toward finalizing a two-year contract with three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford.
By adding three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler on draft night and signing Teague, Gibson and soon Crawford in free agency, the Wolves have addressed needs such as improved shooting and defense, and more veteran leadership.
They also have added four players who together have played 234 playoff games.
The other seven of the Wolves’ 11 players signed to guaranteed contracts so far have played a combined 11 playoff games, all of them by veteran center Cole Aldrich.
In a mere matter of days, the Wolves have grown older as well as much more experienced and playoff-proven.
“I think it’s a big part,” said Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves coach and president of basketball operations who coached Butler and Gibson in Chicago and against Teague when both were in the Eastern Conference. “It’s more all the steps that you take along the way. It’s the winning. When you look at Jeff’s career, two years ago [the Hawks] had the best record in the league. He has been in the conference finals, they’ve advanced past the first round several times [four times]. Taj, the same thing.
“I think that’s important. These guys, I don’t think you can measure them by their individual statistics. You measure them by what they do for their team. And they both prioritize winning. They both put the team first and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Both Teague and Gibson have played in Eastern Conference finals series and both have made the playoffs for different teams: Teague with Atlanta and Indiana, Gibson with Chicago and Oklahoma City.
“When you play in April, May and June, those guys who play in those months have a lot of character,” Wolves General Manager Scott Layden said. “There’s a toughness that goes into getting to that moment. … I think that will help our other guys understand what it takes to get to those places.”
Thibodeau expects all four additions will bring a winning mentality to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004.
“You get that from winning games and being unselfish and being lucky enough to play for some great organizations that understood winning,” Gibson said. “Coming here with a coach that understands winning for a franchise that wants to win, for a great fan base that sells out the arena even when games aren’t going good, I think it’s something special here.”
So, too, does Teague, who said he told his agent the night the Wolves traded for Butler that he wanted to play in Minnesota, even with a coach as demanding and relentless as Thibodeau.
“I’ve had an opportunity to play against Thibs and see how hard he coaches his guys and how well-coached his teams were,” Teague said. “It was a perfect fit for me and at this stage of my career, I wanted to win and I wanted to do it in a special way. I think it will be more special to bring some playoff atmosphere back here.”
• Orlando waived point guard C.J. Watson, giving the Wolves one more option for one of the three spots Thibodeau intends to fill. Watson, 32, played for Chicago during Thibodeau’s first two seasons there (2010-12).