PHOENIX — Mirza Teletovic prides himself on being optimistic in the worst situations. These days, positivity doesn’t seem so hard to find as the new Phoenix Suns forward and his team ready for the upcoming season.
Teletovic seems at peace with everything: the relaxing Phoenix lifestyle; his health after sitting out three months last season because of blood clots found in his lungs; and his new Suns team.
“Everything is just beautiful,” said the 29-year-old Teletovic, who spent his first three NBA seasons with the Nets and signed with Phoenix when Brooklyn rescinded a qualifying offer this summer.
Appreciating the present comes easily.
Teletovic grew up in Bosnia during its war and turned to basketball as his outlet. That became threatened in January, when breathing problems turned out to be bilateral pulmonary embolus. He returned for the Nets’ playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks but played sparingly.
Teletovic believes that he’ll be able to regain a rhythm after not playing significant minutes in nearly nine months. It’s one reason why the decision to join the Suns came so easily.
“It was just a great fit for me. There was really not much thinking to it,” Teletovic said. “I kind of wanted a team that’s new, fresh, that wants to do something … exciting, try to get to the playoffs. Kind of has a new, fresh breeze to it.”
Speaking of breeze, Teletovic can now enjoy the outdoors a little more. The Suns took the day off Sunday, allowing the 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward to take his son on an all-day fishing excursion at Bartlett Lake.
In his new home, Teletovic likes the convenience of the traffic system (“Whatever you want to do in New York, you have to go two hours before. Here, you can do two, three things in one day.”) and has settled in with his family.
On the court, he likewise sees broader horizons than in Brooklyn.
The Suns — and the average NBA fan — know Teletovic for his accurate three-point shooting and quick trigger, but coach Jeff Hornacek thinks his new backup to Markieff Morris can do more.
“I think you think of him as kind of that standstill shooter, but I think for him he can penetrate,” Hornacek said. “That’s something that maybe we didn’t see a ton of in Brooklyn because they had a different style where maybe Joe Johnson is posting up, and they’re kicking out to him and he’s just shooting it in. Here, when we’re swinging it and they’re closing out and running at him, he’s been driving and kicking it out for easy passes and layups.”
Defensively, Teletovic can make up for his lack of footspeed with his strength, but he’s always made his money with his shooting.
In three years with the Nets, Teletovic launched 650 three-pointers on 1,033 total attempts (that’s 63 percent of his shots), hitting 36 percent. His best season in 2013-14 saw him shoot 39 percent from deep.
Through two preseason games, Teletovic has yet to find his rhythm — he’s hit 2-of-15 shots — but surmises that’ll come quickly playing behind Markieff Morris, whose involved offensive role on the Suns attracted Teletovic to sign.
“(In) practice, there is a lot of moving the ball. I get to post up, I get to drive to the basket, get occasional three with someone who drives, kicks it out,” he said. “For me, playing the first game in 15 minutes, I get like 10 open shots. Maybe in Brooklyn I would get two, three open shots.”
Teletovic finds himself fighting for backup forward minutes with Jon Leuer but if his off-the-court comfort level says anything and his positivity remains, Teletovic is on the right track toward becoming a key member of the Suns’ rotation.
Perhaps his impact will help the Suns make the postseason, forcing him to put off that next fishing trip.
“I love going fishing. There’s a lot of lakes here. Yesterday I went with my son, Bartlett Lake, went fishing, really enjoyed a beautiful day,” he said. “It’s really a relaxing situation for me. I just get to enjoy basketball.”
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