|17 January 2013|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Mirza Teletovic is enjoying more minutes under Brooklyn's new head coach |
Mirza Teletovic would be hard-pressed to find a place in Europe where a basketball fan doesn't hold a view on his unconventional style of play or, at the very least, recognise him.
That is, for now, far from the case in his new home on the other side of the Atlantic.
During the first two months of his rookie NBA season, the Bosnia and Herzegovina international remained virtually unknown to the American public and even to many of the fans of his own team, the Brooklyn Nets.
And it was not because the team just moved into town from New Jersey in the summer.
Up until 26 December, the charismatic forward had only featured sporadically, always for just a few minutes, and had scored 28 points - in total.
In years past, he would have scored more than that in a single game with Caja Laboral Vitoria or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On 27 December, the Nets parted ways with head coach Avery Johnson and handed the reins of the team to his assistant, P.J. Carlesimo.
Since then, Teletovic has played in eight games, including 21-minute appearances in wins against Sacramento and Toronto, has scored 45 points and contributed many times over the rebounds and assists he had collected in his first two months.
Brooklyn fans and local media have taken notice.
"When P.J. came on, he came to me, talked to me and told me to be ready every time," Teletovic told New York radio station WFAN.
"When the game is coming and he calls my name, he tells me to just go in there and play hard, I think that's what he did for all of the guys."
The Nets went on a seven-game winning streak under Carlesimo, that snapped on Wednesday night with a 109-95 loss at the Atlanta Hawks.
Teletovic only played seven minutes this time, but there is now no doubt in his mind that he is firmly in the team rotation and the coach will be calling his name more and more often.
"It feels great, I'm glad I just can come out and every time the guys need me, I can help out, not only on offence but on defence also," the forward said.
|Teletovic knows it will take time to fully adapt to the NBA game|
A DIFFERENT GAME
Teletovic is not a typical NBA rookie. He is 27 years old and has had years of experience in the Euroleague and the Spanish Liga Endesa with his club and is the leader of a national team that will make its second consecutive EuroBasket appearance this summer.
"Coming over here (in the US) I knew it wouldn't be easy," he admitted.
"I played in Europe almost 10 seasons straight professional basketball.
"When I got over here, I talked to a lot of European players who have come to the NBA and they told me just to have patience.
"Everybody had difficulties in the first year but I wasn't feeling ready to play the game.
"It takes you a couple of months just to pick up the rules of the team defensively and offensively.
The second-leading scorer of last summer's EuroBasket Qualification Round identifies one main element of the game a European player needs time to adapt to.
"The NBA game is much faster and guys here are more physical," he said.
"You have to be aware and play hard and defend hard because it's a very physical game."
THE EUROPEAN CONNECTION
Teletovic has nothing but gratitude for the help he receives in this adaptation process by Nets superstar Deron Williams and the rest of his team-mates.
There is however, quite predictably, a certain player on the Brooklyn roster he is more close to, young Georgian international Tornike Shengelia.
"Toko (Shengelia) and I have a lot of similarities, he played in Spain like me," the Bosnian star said.
"This summer, we played against the Georgian national team (in the EuroBasket Qualification Round) where Toko plays and I talked to him before the game and I also talked to Zaza Pachulia, his team-mate.
"Toko's a great guy. He helps me a lot. Somebody coming from the same side I'm coming from, making the transition from Europe to here and I think with time, Toko is also going to show that he's a very good player."