Mirza Teletovic is learning the NBA on the fly
CHICAGOMirza Teletovic is used to being one of his team's main guys, a person who's counted on to take big shots.
The 6-9 forward from Bosnia typically has the ball in his hands a lot, serving as a playmaker and a dangerous outside shooter. But for the better part of his first season in the NBA after playing in Europe, Teletovic, 27, has been more of an afterthought with the Nets, getting sporadic minutes and few shot attempts.
He's still doing his best to fit in and find his niche on a team that spent $330 million in new contracts in the offseason and has plenty of offensive firepower. Coach Avery Johnson hasn't pointed to Teletovic on the bench much, but that hasn't discouraged him.
"I've been working hard, like every day," Teletovic said, "trying to stay in shape and once my name gets called, be ready and to start playing. Sometimes it's tough. Most of the time not playing and then getting in the game . . . You can do whatever you want, but game shape is a different thing. It takes a little bit of time to get into it."
Teletovic has appeared in only 10 of the Nets' 23 games. In a modest 7.2 minutes per game, Teletovic is averaging 2.6 points and shooting 30.3 percent from the field. His strength is supposed to be shooting the deep ball, but he's canned a mere 25 percent (6-for-24).
"It's been tough on him," Deron Williams said. "He's been a pro for a while and he's used to being the guy on the team that plays 35 minutes a game and gets the majority of their shots, to go to a team where now he's thrown out there for two minutes. He's not used to coming off the bench and has to take shots. It's a transition, so everybody is patient with him.
"We know what he is capable of doing. We see it in practice how he can shoot the ball. It's just a matter of gaining his confidence and how he plays on the defensive end."
Teletovic, who signed a three-year, $9-million deal in the offseason, still is adjusting to the rigors of a new league. Not only is the European three-point line closer to the hoop than it is in the NBA, but the players in Europe aren't as big, athletic and versatile as they are over here. So his defense remains a work in progress.
"It's good," Teletovic said. "Once you come into the NBA, there's a lot of defensive rules, and Coach Avery has his defensive rules that I have to learn. For me, it's very important to come in the game and just watch and see how they just defend. You see what they are doing and you just repeat it."
As for Teletovic's stroke, Williams knows it's a matter of time before he gets it going again. Being on a short leash certainly isn't easy, though.
"I've never been in that position, but I can imagine," Williams said. "I can imagine it being hard to get into a rhythm. So you definitely feel for the guy and what he is going through right now. His first time in the NBA, he's a rookie. So he's struggling a little bit, but it's warranted."