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Is Atlanta ready for its own Agent Zero?

POSTED: June 26, 2009 8:37 p.m.

ATLANTA — Jeff Teague posed in the Hawks' 18th-floor conference room, proudly holding up his new jersey with a number that hasn't been seen very often in Atlanta.

Zero.

Less than 24 hours after going to the Hawks with the 19th pick of the NBA draft, Teague flew into Atlanta for a photo op and news conference, accompanied by his mother, father and agent.

He plans to wear No. 0 in the NBA, just as he did at Wake Forest. It's his tribute to Gilbert Arenas, who adopted the number after being told he would never make it to the pros. "Agent Zero" shrugged off his detractors to become one of the league's top players.

Teague has heard that he's too small to be a big-time player. He wasn't highly recruited out of high school, and arrived at Wake Forest weighing only 155 pounds.

"I started wearing zero my freshman year of college," said Teague, who'll be only the third player to wear zero for the Hawks. "I wasn't highly recruited. I was kind of like the Gilbert Arenas story. He kind of reminded me of myself."

Teague broke into the Wake Forest lineup as a freshman and led the Demon Deacons in scoring and assists this past season, proving that size wasn't a detriment at all. If anything, all the talk spurred him on.

"It was a lot of motivation," he said. "When I got there, people were telling me I probably wouldn't play a lot because I was a smaller guy and they had a lot of great players there already. But when I got my opportunity to play, I did pretty well. Now, to be in this situation, I feel like all the hard work has paid off."

The 6-foot-2 Teague is still just 178 pounds, which undoubtedly caused some teams to shy away from him in the draft. Seven other point guards went before his name was called Thursday night.

He's not complaining.

"It really didn't matter to me," Teague said. "I just wanted to have an opportunity to play in the NBA."

The Hawks plan to bring him along slowly, knowing that Teague must hit the weight room before he becomes a major contributor. The team bulked up in the backcourt just hours before the draft, trading for Jamal Crawford, and general manager Rick Sund hopes to re-sign free agent guards Mike Bibby and Flip Murray, both major contributors in Atlanta's run to the second round of the playoffs.

If just one of those players returns, Teague won't have to play major minutes as a rookie.

"I think that would be good for me," he said. "It would give me the opportunity to learn from these great players. Just to be in practice and have to work every day and see what takes to be on floor, I think that would help me a lot, make me work harder so I can get my opportunity to play."

Coach Mike Woodson is eager to get a look at his newest player.

"This was an easy pick for us," Woodson said. "When we ranked all the guys, we just thought this young man fits in with how we want to play basketball here in Atlanta. He's a point guard who can score with the ball and distribute the ball. When you watch him on tape, he looks like he's NBA ready.

"Yes, he's got to fill out, and there's a major learning curve for any young player who comes into our league. But I think he has the ability to learn, pick up quickly and be a big part of what we're trying to do."

Teague is ready to get to work.

He's ready to be the next "Agent Zero."

"They've always told me, 'You're small guy. You can jump, you can do this, but you're so small,"' Teague said. "It's not the size of the guy, it's the size of the heart. That's the biggest thing. If you play with a lot of heart and passion, you can exceed any expectations."



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