April 9, 2007
ATLANTA - One of the complaints about Doc Rivers during his tenure in Boston has been that he doesn't establish set rotations. A player's playing time and stock can fluctuate like the Dow Jones. Nobody knows that better than Sebastian Telfair. The team's starting point guard at the outset of the season, he's an afterthought as it winds down, having been surpassed by Rajon Rondo.
Telfair played his way onto the bench, make no mistake about that, but with Rivers dealing with a depleted roster of just eight players, the prodigal point guard prodigy is getting another chance. Telfair showed Saturday night why he generated hype and hoopla coming out of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, coming off the bench to score 21 points in Boston's 105-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Telfair provided a spark for Boston in the second quarter, scoring 13 points. He showcased the tantalizing talent - beating his defender off the dribble with ease - that led executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge to make him the centerpiece of a deal in which Boston surrendered the No. 7 pick in the draft to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The 21 points were the most he has scored since he dropped 24 on the Washington Wizards way back on Nov. 4.
"There's going to be a lot more opportunities, as far as guys being hurt, on offense," said Telfair, who was 8 of 12 from the field. "Somebody has to shoot the ball. There will be a couple of more field goal attempts for me, but I'm still going to try to get other guys involved."
The injuries have created playing time for Telfair. He played 32 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, when Delonte West went down with a twisted left ankle, 26 against the Miami Heat Friday night, and 32 against the Pacers before fouling out with 2:51 to go. With West still hobbled, he should get solid minutes here tomorrow against the Hawks.
"It does a lot, the fact that you're on the court, to [boost] your confidence and get the groove back on the court by being out there and playing a certain amount of minutes," said Telfair.
There is no doubt Telfair knows how to score. He broke Kenny Anderson's New York state high school scoring mark. But that's what put him on the bench, a shoot-first mentality, which was anathema to Rivers, a former point guard.
That's why it was Telfair's ability to get the team into the right offensive sets and get shots for others Friday night (he had just 2 points) that drew praise from Rivers. Telfair admitted that in his young career he has found it hard to balance his desire to score with an ability to distribute the ball, which has led him to be indecisive and, for much of this season, ineffective.
"Having the ball, I felt real confident against Miami," said Telfair. "That got my confidence up a lot, finding guys."
Before Telfair is written off as a preps-to-pros flop, it must be remembered he's still only 21. There is room for growth and maturity. Telfair showed he's made progress on both counts. When asked if his role changed because the Celtics were without a lot of scoring threats, he said there is room for everybody to help pick up the scoring load.
"We got some key guys out offensively - D-West, Paul [Pierce], Tony Allen, Al [Jefferson] - we've got to share the ball right now," said Telfair. "But there are definitely going to be a lot of field goal attempts going up from guys who you don't expect to be shooting the ball too much."
That probably will include him. There's no way of telling if Telfair ever will evolve into a true pass-first point guard, but he does understand he can't be strictly a shoot-first one if he wants to stay on the court.
"You have to be conscious that you have to get other guys involved, then the scoring is going to come," said Telfair, "That's something I've learned this year."
Like the Celtics, Telfair remains a work in progress.