Amazingly, the combination of Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, Brooklyn’s two head coaches in 2012-13, didn’t feel Mirza Teletovic was good enough to crack the Nets rotation. No, both (now currently unemployed) coaches chose instead to go with the two-headed monster of Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries at power forward throughout the season and into the playoffs, all the way to bitter end of a devastating Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.
Hard to imagine either of those guys having a game like the one Mirza Teletovic had in Brooklyn on Friday night.
On an evening where Carmelo Anthony will deservedly steal every headline and hog all the available airtime ESPN can spare during a week that isn’t exactly blistering with big sports stories, Mirza Teletovic electrified a different arena just 10 miles away in his own right; scoring a career-high 34 points, 24 of them coming in a second quarter explosion that saw the Bosnian Bomber drill six triples in seven tries. The highlight of the night? How about an incredibly tough, leaning one-hander with one second on the shot clock late in the fourth quarter that kissed off the glass perfectly to extend Brooklyn’s lead? Or maybe it was late in the second quarter, when a red-hot Teletovic shook free from Dirk Nowitzki for a step back 20-footer?
The explosion may have been the surprise of the night around the NBA, but flame throwing is beginning to become the norm for Brooklyn’s backup power forward. Teletovic has looked as confident as can be, firing shots from any range as long as any space is available. Where has this rise in confidence come from? This is, after all, the same guy who through up three air balls in a game last season during a blowout in Detroit. Certainly Jason Kidd deserves a ton of credit here for player development. Teletovic said as much in an interview with a Bosnian newspaper last week. “Jason Kidd will be one of the best coaches, for sure – the new Gregg Popovich,” Mirza explained.
“(Talking to Jason) is just like talking to you, man,” Teletovic continued. “He’s just comfortable. You can talk to him and he really explains things, like, ‘Listen Mirza, you have to do these things for us and do this.’ He’ll tell you ‘look, we’re going to draw up a play and you’re going to be right there and you’re going to get the ball and shoot it.’ You’re like, ‘OK, right.’ Then you get the ball and you’re wide open and you shoot the ball.”
On the season, Teletovic is now up to 42 percent from 3, good for 15th in the NBA. His ability to stretch the floor at his size and play both forward spots has fit in perfectly with what Brooklyn has been so successful with in 2014: exploiting mismatches with creative lineups. Mirza’s ability to both knock down 3-pointers and put the ball on the floor at his size is reminiscent of what Toni Kukoc used to do with the Chicago Bulls in the mid ’90s; and on a night where both Dirk Nowitzki and Andrei Kirilenko, two of this generation’s best European players, were both on the floor, it was Teletovic who stole the show.
So, will we see Mirza Teletovic in the 3-point shootout?
“Yeah. If they pick me, I’ll go right now.”