ATLANTA - Just three months after sitting in a Southern California hospital, pondering if his career was over given he had multiple blood clots in his lungs, Mirza Teletovic is available to help change the fortunes of the eighth-seeded Nets.
Teletovic, with four practice sessions in the last five days under his belt, is listed as probable for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first-round series with the top-seeded Hawks at Philips Arena Wednesday night. Although coach Lionel Hollins cautioned Teletovic might not get on the court, his sudden return can provide a boost for the Nets in a variety of ways and jolt them with an emotional lift.
"And if it happens, it happens," Teletovic said Tuesday. "If not, no big deal. Have patience and wait for the next game."
More importantly, it signals Teletovic is completely healthy. He wasn't supposed to resume basketball-related activities until June at the earliest, but was cleared for contact Friday. Now, he can put the days of worrying behind and has a chance to impact a game for the first time since Jan. 22, when he checked out in the second quarter of the Nets' loss to the Clippers complaining of shortness of breath.
"After three months of being out and not really knowing if it's going to be three or six [months] or something like that,' Teletovic said, "coming back and then to have the chance to come right away to practice, and learn and understand what they wanted to do, I feel pretty confident."
Teletovic's potential inclusion into the Nets' scheme, at the very least, forces Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who was named coach of he year, to game plan for the third-year forward. Atlanta's swarming and trapping defense caused fits for the Nets on Sunday, leading to 24 points off 17 turnovers.
The Nets struggled mightily from the three-point line, going 5-for-20. Teletovic will help stretch the defense, which could create more room for Brook Lopez to operate inside. The 7-footer hoisted only seven shots Sunday despite his substantial height advantage over Atlanta.
"Definitely three-point shooting from the outside," Thaddeus Young said of what Teletovic's presence adds. "I think that's one of the biggest things about us, We're up and down with that, so having Mirza back is perfect because he can step out there and he can shoot the basketball. I think that's the best thing about his game. He has the ability to shoot and he has the ability to go out there and play multiple positions."
Missing the final 39 games of the season and then being thrust into a playoff contest poses a challenge. Nothing can simulate the physical pounding exhibited during a postseason game, so Teletovic likely will be brought along slowly.
"No doubt it will be tough," Joe Johnson said. "It will be tough for him because of the lack of condition and just the gamelike intensity. With him getting up and down the floor, bumping and banging and rebounding, I think that will probably take a toll. But he says he's willing to fight through it."Sounds just like the guy who never lost faith that this time would soon arrive, even if others may have been skeptical.
"I kind of always describe myself as hardheaded, but positively hardheaded," Teletovic said. "I would go and try to do whatever it is to get better and get back to playing fast as soon as possible. It's tough. It is something that you have to deal with and I've always had a positive mind-set."