Following Monday afternoon’s mostly cerebral Nets practice at Georgia Tech, some members of the bench stuck around for some three-on-three and four-on-four contact scrimmages with assistant coach John Welch. One of those players was someone who had been a familiar face only on the sidelines in recent months: forward Mirza Teletovic.
He looked sharp, hitting three-pointers and banking in one shot on a catch-and-drive to the basket. On defense, he matched up against Cory Jefferson and Earl Clark, and held his own.
Teletovic had been working out in the Nets practice facility since a January 22nd diagnosis of bilateral pulmonary embolus, or blood clots in his lungs, after leaving a game with shortness of breath. The diagnosis put him on blood thinners, which automatically ruled him out from any contact work against players, but he dispelled the idea that he’d “been sitting the last three months.”
“Jeremy Bettle, our conditioning coach, has a really good program for me that kind of has (a) basketball way of practicing,” he added. “I was jumping up and down on the boxes with weights. When I go in the weight room, you just go through everything fast, there’s no break in-between. So you’re kind of in that shape where you can approach basketball.”
Originally, the team ruled Teletovic out for the season, since treatment plans require the patient to be on blood thinners for three to six months. But less than three months later on April 17, Teletovic was cleared by team doctors to be removed from blood thinners and return to practice. He was ruled out of games until further notice.
“I’m good,” Teletovic said. “I feel really good.”
The next step for Teletovic is re-acclimating to the speed and rhythm of the NBA game. He returned to practice with the team shortly before the Hawks series began, running through contact during the post-practice scrimmage and the team’s 5-on-0 drills. It was his second full practice since the injury, and neither Teletovic nor coach Lionel Hollins were sure if he’d be ready to go before the end of the first round.
With the Nets down one game in a series in which they’re heavy underdogs, Hollins could use a shooter like Teletovic, who hit 39 percent of his three-pointers last season. That number would lead the Nets this year. But both sides are taking caution, with the ever-confident Teletovic admitting he’s unsure what the results would be in his first game back.
“To be honest, this is my first injury in 15 years, and I have no idea how I’m going to feel when I come on the court,” Teletovic said. “So I think the coaches have more experience than I do and I really try to respect their opinion.”
The Nets will know more about Teletovic’s status during Tuesday’s practice, which will presumably involve more contact and five-on-five drills. If he can make it through, we might see Teletovic on the court much sooner than everyone thought.