EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WFAN/AP) — When Mirza Teletovic was an aspiring 16-year-old basketball player in his native Croatia, he had a chance to come to the United States to play in college.
“Gonzaga and UConn were interested in me,” said Teletovic, one of the new members of the Brooklyn Nets. “But I was a young guy, and I wanted to stay close to home.”
Now, more than 10 years later, and after playing professional basketball in Europe, the 6-foot-9 Teletovic has decided to finally come to the United States and give the NBA a try.
And where else would he go? Brooklyn, of course. After all, the Nets are making waves in their new surroundings, they have added several new pieces to the puzzle in this, their summer of change, and Teletovic wanted in.
He told the media Thursday that he wanted “to come to a team that wants to do big things, and I think the Nets are ready to do that.” Forward Reggie Evans was also introduced.
“I’ve been a pro since I was about 16,” Teletovic said. “That’s how they do things in Europe. I didn’t want to come to the United States and leave my parents. I had a chance to make money in Belgium, which wasn’t far from Croatia. I was honestly a little scared about leaving back then.”
Teletovic signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Nets, one of two teams that pursued the 6-foot-9 versatile forward. Teletovic’s agent, Misko Raznatovic, said last month that his client had narrowed down his choices to the Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, although Brooklyn general manager Billy King initially denied interest.
“The whole year long, while I was playing in Spain, I knew I wanted to come to play in the NBA,” Teletovic said. “I just wanted to find the best team. I told my agent he could talk to Cleveland, but I thought the Nets were the best option, especially after Deron Williams signed. I knew the Nets were the best team, a veteran team that wanted to win. I wanted to play for a team that will try and get a championship.
“I told my agent Cleveland had a young team. But when Deron decided to stay, it gave the Nets a better chance to compete.”
The Cavaliers were prepared to offer a more lucrative deal.
“The money didn’t matter to me,” Teletovic said. “I told my agent to push for the Nets. It was always my dream to play in the NBA and now that dream is coming true. I wasn’t worried about the contract. It was all about coming to a team that had a big chance to win.”
Teletovic credited his intense schooling for his knowledge of the English language. He averaged 16.9 points and nearly seven rebounds per game for Caja Laboral Vitoria of the Spanish ACB League, and averaged better than 21 points in 10 Eurocup contests.
Moving forward, Teletovic hopes to play both forward positions in the NBA.
“I played power forward in Europe, but I think I can help at both,” Teletovic said. “People have asked me if I need to adjust to play in the NBA, but I have always played like an NBA player, running up and down the floor, shooting from distance.”
Teletovic, 27, has played against NBA talent. In 2010, in fact, San Antonio and Memphis faced the Croatian national team.
“I always had people telling me that I should go to the NBA,” he said. “They said I had the right profile for the NBA. Well, now the time is right. I know I’m ready.”
Evans, a 6-8 power forward and 10-year NBA veteran, comes to the Nets after a sign-and-trade deal with the Clippers. The Nets surrendered the right to swap second-round picks with Los Angeles in 2016 to acquire Evans, who provides a much-needed physical presence under the basket.
“I rebound, play defense and give energy,” Evans said. “They know I’m not trying to score.”
That’s a good thing. Because Evans averaged only 1.9 points in 56 games last season for the Clippers. But he now looks forward to being reunited with King. The two were together with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“He brought me to Philly (in 2007) and I know he has respect for me and what I do,” Evans said. “It’s an honor to play for him again. It’s a good situation to be in, a veteran team with good players. The Nets have created a lot of buzz with what they’ve done in the offseason. I saw the direction they’re going in.
“They want to win in a new city and they’re bringing in a lot of new players.”
One of those new players likely will not be Dwight Howard, as the trade efforts to acquire the All-Star center from the Orlando Magic have fallen through. But the Nets traded for Joe Johnson and Evans, signed Teletovic, and re-signed Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez.
Amid the busy offseason, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov issued a statement.
“I’m thrilled with the way our team has come together. My congratulations and appreciation go out to King, assistant general manager Bobby Marks and coach Avery Johnson for their tenacity, nerve and heart throughout this process,” Prokhorov said. “With the re-signing of Williams and the trade for Johnson, we go into our new home led by an All-Star backcourt and with every hope of a great season for the Brooklyn Nets. I can’t wait until opening night.”
The owner wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to talk about Howard. Evans didn’t, either.
“That’s Dwight’s situation and the guy is going to make the most of it,” he said. “It’s between Dwight and his team and I’m not getting in the middle of it.”
Teletovic, though, said that it would have been nice to have Howard as a teammate.
“For sure, he would have been a big help,” Teletovic said. “It would have been nice to play with Dwight Howard, but the Nets still have very good players to compete at a high level.”
The Nets will officially introduce Williams and Johnson at a press conference and pep rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Friday.
Even with the moves, the Nets have only eight players on the roster. Veteran guard Jerry Stackhouse could be a ninth, as the two parties are close on a one-year, $1.3 million contract.
Do you expect big things from Teletovic? Let us know in the comments below…
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