MANKATO – There was a lot about last season that was new for 32-year-old veteran Jeff Teague — and none of it was welcome.
There were injuries, which cost Teague 40 games and ultimately led to ankle debridement surgery late in the season. Teague had never missed more than 12 games in any previous season.
“It was very frustrating,” Teague said. “Never really been injured before like that, so it was new to me.”
Then there was the playoff streak. Teague had never missed the playoffs in his career, until last season.
“That was really awkward,” Teague said. “I’ve always been in a situation where I was in the playoffs, so not being able to play and then not making it to the playoffs — it wasn’t fun at all.”
Teague can seem like a square peg in the round hole of the roster assembled by the new Wolves regime. President Gersson Rosas has emphasized the need for the Wolves to surround center Karl-Anthony Towns with players who will be entering their prime as Towns enters his.
It’s why the Wolves didn’t make any serious inquiries about trades for point guards Chris Paul (34) and Russell Westbrook (30) in the offseason. They already have their own veteran, former All-Star point guard in Teague, who opted in to the final year of his contract for $19 million.
But in the early days of camp, which included media day Monday in Minneapolis and Tuesday’s first practice in Mankato, Teague has appeared engaged and eager to be beginning a new season — one that will be big for him personally.
“I’m the oldest guy on the team, and I still feel like I’m pretty young,” Teague said. “So that’s amazing. I’m excited that we’re going to play really fast with all of the young guys that we have. The energy every night should be great. It’s going to be very competitive.”
Teague has never been one to shy away from sharing candid thoughts, so his enthusiasm for the Wolves’ change of direction carries a lot of weight.
“He understands he wants to get back, and he wants to help get the team to a level where you can compete and contend down the line,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “So having him and being that example is a positive.”
It will mean changes to the offense, with Teague perhaps handling the ball less than he did in previous seasons. The Wolves want to run a lot and want Towns to facilitate the offense more frequently, and they want to work for more three-pointers.
“Believe it or not, I’m not a guy who wants to dribble, dribble, dribble,” Teague said. “That’s just something I had to in past years when I played on other teams, it was all about continuity, other guys making plays and guys getting open shots and things like that. So I’m all for it.”
Don’t expect Teague to take the mantra of being a vocal leader in the locker room, even though he is the oldest member of the team. Teague is about as laid back a personality as there is in the NBA. Nothing ever seems to anger him or get him overly excited. He seems quiet, but then some days you might find him singing along to pop-rock group Paramore in the locker room.
“I’m going to still be me,” Teague said. “I’m not the loudest guy or a talkative guy, but I can lead by example. If guys got questions or anything like that, I’m always open.
“It’s a solid group. I think everybody is pretty much open to one another, we can talk about anything.”
Teague has a lot of experience over 10 seasons that he can share. He would just rather not relive his most recent season.