It has been a rough transition to the NBA for Mirza Teletovic. Last season, coaches Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo never gave him a chance to prove himself. In an interview with Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News in September, Teletovic was frustrated about how last season went. "I think it would be almost the same result or even less (about playing such low minutes). It's tough. It's tough when you don't play."
This season, Teletovic was coming off a fantastic stint in Eurobasket, averaging 21 points and seven rebounds per game. It seemed like Mirza was prepared for the NBA. He saw some minutes in the preseason, but when the games started to count, Reggie Evans took his playing time. The rise of Mason Plumlee didn't help either. And just like that, the Bosnian was in the same position as last year.
On November 3, as the season started with him getting few minutes, he famously (infamously?) tweeted out a message in Bosnian that got noticed...
Mrzim kad me lažu :(((((((— Mirza Teletovic (@Teletovic33) November 4, 2013
It was translated either as, "I hate liars" or "I hate when they lie to me." He claimed it had "nothing to do with basketball."
Teletovic started to gain significant time in Minnesota last Friday after he wondered aloud if he had a role on the team. The two games immediately before that game, he had served two DNP-CD's. Since then, he has been playing almost 20 minutes per game, shooting 49% from the field, 52% from the three-point line, averaging 10 points and 5.2 rebounds. In both the Laker comeback and the Grizzlies win, Teletovic hit clutch shots that were crucial, scoring 14 in the fourth quarter vs. L.A. and hitting five straight when Memphis got within one. Over these past six games, Teletovic has been the Nets best player off the bench, if not for the best overall.
Watching some film on him, it is clear that he has gained the confidence that he lacked with Johnson or Carlesimo at the helm. Kidd has given him the opportunity to play, and he is taking advantage of it. He is not afraid to shoot when out there, he never was. This season, though, his shot seems different. It comes off much smoother, and one can tell that he is in a groove when he pulls it. In the fourth quarter against the Lakers on Wednesday, Teletovic hit three three's down the stretch to keep the Nets in the game. He had 14 in the quarter, played nearly all of it, and had a net rating of +7 -- the best on the team.
Even when he is not scoring, he is a threat. Tuesday in Toronto, Teletovic took one shot. His presence was felt on the court, though. The Raptors were constantly having to stay tight on him in fear of allowing him to get a three off. This led to a lot of easy chances for the Nets. They outscored the Raptors 48-28 in the paint.
Teletovic's defense is getting there. Last season, he couldn't stay on the floor because of it. This season, though, it is improving nightly. He is almost always in the passing lane when playing off the ball, and is staying in front of his man. With the playing time he has received, he has shown how quick and aggressive he has long claimed to be. He has not been beaten off the dribble many times and he has closed out nicely on the perimeter. His most impressive defensive play was his block of Wesley Johnson's dunk attempt in the Laker game.
The most surprising facet of his game that has been showcased is his rebounding. Friday night in Houston, Teletovic had his first career double-double, 18 points and 13 rebounds. He has been crashing the glass hard over this stretch of games, coming in from the top of the key to fight for the ball. This season, Teletovic has a total rebound percentage of 14%, up from 11% last season. This type of effort is what has earned him the playing time.
For a team that is trying to identify themselves, and just win some ball games, hustle is what earns players playing time. It has been seen with Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor as well. Teletovic had high hopes coming over from Europe, but year one was a failure. However, with a new coach, and a struggling team, Mirza has taken his game where it has never been before in the league.
- Mirza Teletovic shows some swagger (Video) - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
Mirza Teletovic is on his way towards a permanent role in the Nets rotation - Jon Presser - SNY Nets