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Home is where Jeff Teague's heart is

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Seven years later, Jeff Teague and the Indiana Pacers are finally in the same place at the same time.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Like two ships that pass in the night, Jeff Teague, a former Pike standout, Indiana All-Star, and self-professed fan of the Jalen Rose and, later, Jermaine O'Neal-era Pacers, was for a brief moment hopeful that his hometown franchise would select him in the 2009 NBA Draft. Instead, they opted for Tyler Hansbrough, and he fell to the Atlanta Hawks at No. 19.

"In the draft, I thought they were going to pick me at 13," Jeff Teague said of the Pacers at Monday's introductory press conference. "I wanted them to. But you know it didn't work, but I guess it worked out for the better now that I have the opportunity to be here, and I think it is at a better time."

The years on separate paths, punctuated by a few memorable first-round playoff meetings in 2013 and 2014, afforded the speedy guard a sort of extended gap year to come into his own as an All-Star while learning how to win as a key cog on a 60-win Hawks team near the same time frame Paul George was blossoming in Indiana.

"We had great teams in Atlanta," Teague admitted to Pat Boylan. "But we had nothing like a Paul George in Atlanta. He's a unique player. He has the ability to play four different positions. He's a superstar."

With the Dennis Schroder-era suddenly being fast-tracked in Atlanta, it seems almost serendipitous that now would be the moment that the player with "317" emblazoned on his forearm would finally get to come home.

"It's just a sense of pride for me," the 28-year-old said of Indianapolis. "Being here watching guys grow up be successful playing basketball. Every driveway you go to you see a basketball court. Every park some kid is playing basketball. I've grown to love it, and I love the city, and I've been a Pacers fan for years, and now my dream (has) come true."

Further underscoring his enthusiasm with being back in the place where he made his name, the former All-Star made it clear he won't be satisfied greeting his new team for one season with flashing lights and then sailing off into the night never to see each other again when his contract expires at the end of the season.

"Definitely beyond just one season," Teague responded after stating he would defer to his agent regarding the possibility of long-term contract negotiations. "I would love to spend the rest of my career here."

Here, the former Pike Standout can enjoy his mother's homemade ham dinners and be introduced as "just a kid from Indianapolis, Indiana" alongside a youth infused roster which plans to play to his strengths without having to watch idly from the bench as Schroder finishes games in the fourth quarter.

"Getting traded is never good news...really," Teague explained to Pacers.com's Pat Boylan. "But when I got traded to the Pacers (that was) the best news I'd heard in years."