Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — No one really knows for sure how good Mirza Teletovic can be or if he can be a consistently effective NBA forward for the simple fact that he has yet to get much in the way of consistent playing time through the first 56 games this season.
What is clear is the Bosnian-born, 27-year old rookie can score and he can do it bunches if given enough time. Friday evening’s 106-96 Nets loss to the Houston Rocket was a prime example as the 6-foot-9 Teletovic finished with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field in 17 minutes of action.
Nine of those 12 points came in the fourth quarter when Teletovic got crunch time minutes and almost helped the Nets steal a game they had no business winning. The 17 minutes he played are his most in a game since he played 14 against the Miami Heat on Jan. 30.
“I just wanted to bring in a little bit more energy and try to play hard,” Teletovic said. “I just really like to play hard and try to help guys out. Being out there a couple of minutes, you start to feeling confident.”
With the Nets down 92-80, Teletovic checked in the at 10:19 mark of the fourth quarter and provided important offense. His 3-pointer with 3:55 to play got the Nets to within 3 at 95-92, but they would get no closer in losing their 13th straight to the Rockets and having their four-game winning streak snapped.
In a rookie season that has seen less ups than downs for one of Europe’s premier scorers, Friday could serve as the game where Teletovic, who was averaging just 3.0 points in 7.8 minutes over 32 games entering the night, finally turned the corner.
“Sometimes, I just start thinking too much,” Teletovic said. You just start thinking about all the mistakes you make because I’m not a young guy, I’ve played for a long time and I know basketball. You really start thinking about it, all I’ve done. Today, I got in and just said, ‘Let’s play basketball.’
Teletovic may be an NBA rookie, but he is no stranger to high-level basketball. He made his professional debut in Bosnia at the age of 17, eventually working his way to Caja Laboral of Spain’s ACB League, that country’s top professional outfit.
Caja Laboral also plays in the Euroleague, which is Europe’s first tier and generally considered the world’s second best league behind the NBA, although a distant second.
Teletovic declared for the NBA Draft at the age of 22 in 2007, going undrafted, but continued to shine with Caja Laboral. In 10 Euroleague games in 2011-12, he averaged 21.7 points per game. He reached a contract buyout with Caja Laboral for 2 million euros last June, which allowed him to play for an NBA team this season.
Teletovic initially agreed with the Nets for the full mid-level exception of three years and $15.675 million on July 3, but eventually signed for the mini mid-level exception of three years and $9 million on July 6.
While Teletovic’s defense could use a little work, the investment may be finally paying off.
“I just have to find the fun in basketball again, not think about it too much and just have fun,” Teletovic said.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA