Valentin Le Clezio is a French student at USC this year. He writes for catch-and-shoot.com, a big French basketball website which enables him to get media credentials for NBA games. He's played with and against some of the best French players and prospects (Nuggets rookie Evan Fournier and top draft target Rudy Gobert, among others). He first informed NetsDaily of the Nets' interest in Mirza Teletovic last summer.
He decided to spend Thanksgiving weekend covering the Nets in their back- to-back games in Los Angeles and Oakland. Here's his report for NetsDaily, a French blogger's look inside NBA team ... with particular emphasis on Teletovic.
-The Nets were coming off a good "W" in Sacramento and on a five-game winning streak so it should seem pretty normal that the locker room was full of joy prior to this back-to-back. Indeed, I can confirm that the group is working together really well despite being made up of some very different personalities. From what I've seen/heard Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse are the leaders. It was particularly impressive during the Warriors game to see Jerry, who didn't play, acting almost like another assistant coach throughout the timeouts.
--Williams and Wallace were consistently exchanging jokes prior to gametime in LA as well. D-Will talks a lot to Marshon during dead balls and time-outs (just one example). Andray Blatche always seems in his own world (singing and talking alone)> No one is going change him, but he doesn't bother anybody either. At the other end, you have the "Euro group" with Toko Shengelia and Mirza Teletovic, joining with Kris Humphries. They seem to mesh pretty well together. They don't talk much, don't trash talk or anything. I know Teletovic and Humphries sit next to each other on Nets flights. The rookies (except Teletovic) distribute towels to every players after the game before the game, bring some plates of food (prepared by the Nets' nutritionist) to the players. It annoys Shengelia but he is taking it the right way and has fun with it.
--These are not the "same old Nets" when it comes to objectives. You could really feel it when talking to players or spending time in the locker room. If Avery Johnson keeps using verbs like "to fight" or "to battle" in his post-game press conferences, it's clear the atmosphere in the locker room had changed after the Lakers loss. As Joe Johnson told me, "There is no moral victory" for the Nets now even though they played arguably their best game against the Lakers. (By the way, I had a hard time seeing the Nets winning against the Warriors the next day after looking at the physical fatigue of some of the players following the loss in LA. Wallace said "I feel like trash" and most players looked very tired.
--Following the Warriors game, D-Will was really angry. I had already had the chance to talk to him at the NBA Finals a few years back and to listen to him the day before at Staples Center, but the Deron Williams I saw after the Warriors game was clearly different. The loss hit him hard. He kept talking about the losing streak and wasn't interested in following Avery Johnson's idea of analyzing the Nets situation every 10 games. Talking with one of the Nets beat reporters, I realized it was maybe the first time they had seen Deron in such a state after a game. You cannot say Williams doesn't care. It was a mid-November regular season game and he looked like a guy that had just lost a game seven of the NBA Finals.
--Finally I tried to spend as much time as possible watching Mirza Teletovic. One of his biggest supporters for years now I was very optimistic for this upcoming season. (I actually thought he would be the Nets starter by the end of the year) Seeing him getting DNPs and garbage time minutes is a shock to say the least. Still, anyone who thinks leaving a place he's been living for 10 years (beautiful Vitoria, Spain) moving in one of the biggest cities in the world doesn't require a period of transition doesn't understand the world. I watched him for at least 90 minutes practicing his shot over those two days. First thing: he is always the first one on the court, shooting 40 to 50 minutes before each away game. I had to come three hours before the Lakers game to get a look to his shooting session.
Concerning his shot: the gestures, the body language, the follow-through is still great BUT he is regularly short. That's why I believe his shooting woes will end at some point. The guy has a perfect mechanics and has proved in the past that he is a great shooter (a skill that generally translates very well between Europe and the NBA). The only two explanations I have found are: he has lifted too much weight during the off-season (he told me he did some weight-lifting but I simply don't understand why), and the three-point line is 50 centimeters (1.5 feet) further out than in Europe. At the end of the day, I really think the issue is to be found in his off-season weight lifting sessions more than in the disparity in the three-pont line distance. Teletovic was regurlaly shooting WAY behind the Euro 3 points line last season.
During the Warriors game I was sitting next to the "Euroleague Adventures" blogger Sam Meyerkopf, who is also a basketball coach in Oakland. Meyerkoft has been following Teletovic for years and, as anybody who watched Euroleague ball is, a fan of his. Every time Teletovic took a shot in the fourth quarter of the Warriors game Meyerkoft thought the ball was going in. Why? Because the mechanics are simply perfect and also because he is used to seeing those types of (made) shots from Teletovic.
Teletovic is the nicest guy you will ever met. Certainly one of the best human beings in this locker room. I'm not saying he shouldn't be criticized but if fans ever met him and considered all the factors he has had to deal with since his departure from Spain, some would certainly keep their criticism down.
All in all, I think the Nets will be a dangerous team if they keep this great atmosphere in the locker room and if Teletovic can slowly but surely get better. He brings something new for the Nets at the 4 position: shooting and the ability to spread the floor. Humphries, Reggie Evans and even Brook Lopez can't.