Roderick Boone is a sports reporter covering the New York Jets. He began his Newsday career covering college
CHICAGO - Mirza 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 the 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 everyday," 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 just 10 of the Nets' initial 22 games heading into Saturday night's matchup against the Bulls at the United Center. In a modest 7.2 minutes per game, Teletovic is averaging 2.6 points and is 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 this offseason, is still adjusting to the rigors of a new league. Not only is the three-point line further back than it is overseas, but the players 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. However, being on a short leash at times certainly isn't easy.
"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."
'Crash' Wallace feeling healthier
If anyone needs a full body armored suit, it's Gerald Wallace.
The swingman throws his 6-7 frame around with reckless abandon, creating some awfully loud thuds every time he hits the floor. Wallace was injured in the Nets' first game when he made one of his highflying blocks, then tumbled awkwardly and injured his left ankle, causing him to miss seven games.
But the guy nicknamed "Crash" isn't the least bit worried about his hard falls.
"Nah, I am never concerned," Wallace said. "I know it's part of the game. It's not like it's going to be a shock. I know something is going to be hurting in the morning.
"I don't think. I can't play thinking. Whatever happens is going to happen and I'll worry about it tomorrow."
Wallace has been playing well lately, scoring a season-high 25 points in the double overtime win over the Pistons Friday. He also had 10 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season.
"I'm getting more in a rhythm. The game is starting to become more comfortable for me where I'm playing without any pain. My knee is feeling better, my ankle is feeling better. So I'm starting to get my rhythm where I'm able to flash to the basket and attack the rim the way I like to play, and play my type of game. So I'm getting comfortable with that and I'm starting to feel like my old self."
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"We know how to take care of our bodies," Wallace said. "Stack's been doing it for a long time and I have also. Just got to know how to take care of your body . . . . We had great teachers to show us how to do it.
"For me, it was Cliff Robinson. Cliff played 20 years in the league. I saw the little things he did toward the end of his career to help him get the last two, three, four years."