ATLANTA — Jeff Teague, at least, had something to draw back to when Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer began the preseason work of having him share the court more with backup Dennis Schroder.
"I was used to playing with another guard my whole career," Teague said.
Mike Bibby, Kirk Hinrich, Devin Harris, Lou Williams, Jannero Pargo, Shelvin Mack. The list of fellow points guards that have been part of Atlanta’s roster during Teague’s career was long, and so too was his experience in working alongside them.
The brunt of that came in 2011-12, when Teague and Hinrich played a combined 725 minutes, in ’12-13 with Harris (710) and Williams (523) and last season, when he and Williams were together for 639 minutes.
It was a different story for Schroder.
He and Teague played sparingly together when Schroder was a rookie in 2013-14, seeing 62 minutes over 21 games. They had a minus-19.3 net rating together, pulled down by a minus-116.5 defensive rating (a measure of the number of points an opponent scores per 100 possessions.).
But feeling his way through the NBA transition was the narrative for Schroder.
Only six other two-man combinations had a worse net rating than Teague/Schroder in at least 62 minutes together and the German was part of three of them (minus-19.9 with Kyle Korver; minus-22.5 with Williams and minus-30.8 with Mike Muscala).
But what Budenholzer saw in playing his point guards together was possibility, or more to the point, the chaos they could supply in being "disruptive."
So when Teague and Schroder saw extensive time together behind closed doors at camp, Schroder remembers turning to the veteran and asking "When’s this going to happen in a real game?"
It’s become a weapon whose growth has coincided with Schroder’s improving game, and their comfort in often deferring to the other.
"I think they enjoy it," Budenholzer said. "That’s probably as much as anything, is to have two guys that embrace it and want to do it. It’s a big part of it."
Through Wednesday’s win over the Magic, the guards have teamed for 188 minutes, and while they a net rating that’s barely into the positives at 0.3, that figure alone doesn’t do them justice.
Since the All-Star break they have combined to score in double figures in the same game eight times, punctuated by 41-point/14-assist performance on March 3 vs. the Rockets in which Teague had 25 points and Schroder supplied eight assists.
"I like to play with Jeff," Schroder said. "We make the game real fast and get the ball out and everybody can push it on the sideline."
"Fast" is the optimal term when it comes to the two playing together. It’s in the way they can push the pace offensively — driving to the basket and forcing defenses to collapse — and in the way they can keep opposing players from doing the same.
"Just a lot of speed on the floor," Teague said. "It’s hard to keep both of us in front of you. We can get to the rim at will, then we have Kyle out there doing a lot of good shooting and Paul (Millsap) and Al (Horford). It’s tough to cover."
The free-flowing nature of the Hawks’ offense can see a number of players bringing the ball up, regardless of who is on the court. But from a role-standpoint, there’s a distinct difference in playing largely off the ball.
Teague had experience in those past minutes with another point guard on the floor, but it was an adjustment for Schroder.
"I think there is a little bit of, their whole lives they’d probably just been that guy that always had the ball and had to bring it up," Budenholzer said. "… Hopefully the way we play has allowed them to get that comfort where guys should be able to be in different spots in different times and know what they need to do."
Schroder has become fluent in what’s expected when he and Teague are together: earn that Dennis "the Menace" nickname that’s been heaped upon him.
"Coach tells us when we’re on the floor at the same time that we have to drive and (defensively) keep them in front of us," Schroder said.
There are drawbacks, namely the potential matchup problems that having two shorter players creates.
The average NBA shooting guards is 6-foot-4, two inches taller than Teague and three taller than Schroder. But as Budenholzer says "hopefully our quickness and our ability to keep the ball in front of us is better defensively."
So too is the luxury of having another player that can run pick and rolls, a foundation of what the Hawks are able to do offensively. Per Synergy’s stats Teague ranks 14th in the NBA with 385 points as a pick-and-roll ball handler, while Schroder is 20th (333). The Cavaliers, with Kyrie Irving, who is fourth (516) and LeBron James, sitting 18th (350), are the only other team with two in the top 20.
"With their speed and their abilities to make reads and make decisions, it can be something that can be effective or beneficial to us," Budenholzer said.
There’s that common thread again, speed. It’s the basis of the partnership, but it’s become much more than that with Schroder’s emergence.
Over the last 16 games he’s averaging 13.9 points, 5.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds, all while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 39.6 on 3-pointers.
In that span, Teague is scoring 14.3 per with 5.5 assists, two rebounds and is shooting 44.6 overall and 38.7 from distance.
The Schroder/Teague combination won’t ever be the crux of the Hawks offense — and it could take a back seat momentarily as Teague sits out Friday’s game against the Hawks with a tender ankle, though it’s unclear if he’ll miss more time — but its effectiveness is undeniable, as is the impact it can have on both ends of the floor.
"I think it makes us more aggressive," Horford said. "We’re attacking more. … It’s a good thing."