Veteran point guard Jeff Teague reached the playoffs in each of his first nine NBA seasons. When regular seasons ended and other teams started their summers, Teague always played on. It was all he knew.
But over the last two years, with the Timberwolves and Hawks, he saw the other side. He saw apathetic crowds and plenty of losses and seasons that ended as so many others were getting ready for the fun stuff.
“Not having a chance to compete in the last couple of years was pretty painful,” Teague said Friday. “But coming [to Boston] was all about winning.
“They established themselves as a great team, they have the core guys who all are All-Star players, and are trying to win a championship, so I wanted to be a part of that.
“I’ve never really had a team, besides my years in Atlanta, that I actually felt I could get to the championship besides this one.”
Teague, 32, signed a one-year deal with the Celtics, replacing Brad Wanamaker as Boston’s backup point guard. But in the short term, he is expected to slide into the starting role in place of Kemba Walker, who will miss the beginning of the season as he works to regain strength in his injured left knee.
It will be a luxury for the Celtics to have someone of Teague’s caliber to plug in with Walker out. The former All-Star has started 593 of 771 career regular-season games and 60 of 71 playoff matchups.
“I think he’ll be really important, but I think that’s not just early in the season, but all the way through,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “I think that Jeff puts pressure on the defense in transition, he can get to where he wants to go on offense, and he can pressure the ball defensively.
“It fits in with everything we need on our team and how we play, especially continuing to do so with [small lineups].”
Teague hinted Friday that he was still looking for an opportunity to become a full-time starting point guard this season. But he was encouraged by the way Stevens and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made it clear that he will be given a chance to shine.
“They told me, ‘You get here, there’s a role for you. You have an opportunity to compete at a high level and however you play, you can make it,’ ” Teague said. “And it’s like been a bounce-back year basically for me because of the circumstances.
“I was with Minnesota, Atlanta, bouncing around a little bit. It was like, ‘Man, you could reestablish yourself here.’ And hopefully I can play well and that can happen.”
Stevens confirmed that former Celtics guard Evan Turner will join the team as an assistant coach.
“He’s a special guy, and obviously a really good player at a lot of places,” Stevens said. “Had two great years here, but just loves to be around the game and really loves to help people. He’s got a real service-oriented-ness to him.
“He’s a team guy, and I think that all of our players will love having him around, and our younger players will benefit from his advice, his experience, and all that comes with that.”
Turner played for the Celtics from 2014-16. He replaces Kara Lawson, who left to become the head coach of the Duke women’s basketball team. Jerome Allen is the only other member of Boston’s staff with NBA playing experience, and he retired 23 years ago.
“I thought that was a great move by the front office, having [someone] who played the game at a high level around, and he just finished playing,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “I think having him around is an added benefit to this team.
“We can relate. He can relate to us. He knows what our minds are thinking. And having him in these coaches meetings is going to be important. So I think that was a great hire for the Celtics.”
The COVID factor
The NBA announced this week that 48 players tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to their home markets to begin preparations for the coming season. On Friday, Stevens declined to comment on whether any Celtics have tested positive.
Brown, a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, said he was involved in discussions about when to restart the season. He said the financial impact of starting the year in time for the marquee Christmas slate was made clear.
“So, I was for that in terms of what I saw on paper,” he said. “Obviously, I mean, COVID is still around and still lurking in certain areas. So that’s something to be aware of.
“I’m not sure about how that’s going to necessarily work as we start to travel in certain places and things like that. Will the season be stopped? Will it continue to go on? Well, will there be a stay-at-home order at some point during the season? I’m not sure.
“Some of those variables might work out. But in terms of what we see on paper and what we voted for, I didn’t have a problem with it.”