Sports

Basketball

Teletovic leaves Caja Laboral to sign with New Jersey Nets

AP

East Rutherford, New Jersey

07/13/2012

"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," the former Caja Laboral player said.

  • Former Caja Laboral player Mirza Teletovic. Photo: EFE

    Former Caja Laboral player Mirza Teletovic. Photo: EFE

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Mirza Teletovic says he had a choice when he was 16: Take up offers to college basketball in the United States or turn pro.

The choice was easy. He wanted to stay close to home in Croatia. Eleven years later, he's finally agreed to come to the States, as the new signing of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.

"I've been a pro since I was about 16," Teletovic said at his introduction on Thursday. "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 2.06-meter (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 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," he 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 Croatia. "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."

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