Sebastian Telfair Says He ‘Didn’t Know How to Play the Game,’ Admits to Mistakes With Celtics

Sebastian Telfair, Alan Anderson, Johnny DavisSebastian Telfair will never fulfill the potential he appeared to have as a phenom out of Lincoln High School in 2004. He can try to rescue his reputation in what is left of his NBA career, however, and he appears to be on the right track.

Telfair, now 27, opened up about his self-inflicted trials early in his career, from his multiple gun charges to his brief tenure with the Celtics. The former Sports Illustrated cover boy blamed only himself for the troubles that have caused him to shuttle among seven teams in his nine-year NBA career. It all started in high school, where he never had to set screens, make a post-entry pass, play defense or do any of the fundamental things that are necessary to compete in the NBA.

“I had to learn the game,” Telfair told SI. “When I started, I didn’t know how to play the game, meaning coming from New York and Lincoln High School. They really don’t teach you how to play basketball, especially in a public school. When I got to Portland, I was playing with Zach Randolph. It was a big man’s league and I didn’t understand how to play with those guys, as far as getting those guys the ball, and that other guys can do what you can do. I’m from New York, where point guards, we dominate the game, and I [thought I] was the only one who could do that. It took me some years to understand.”

Telfair also had a lot to say about his lone season with the Celtics. He was part of a trio of mercurial point guards on the 2006-07 Celtics, splitting time with Rajon Rondo and Delonte West. The fact that Telfair already had a lucrative sneaker deal with Adidas made him think he did not have to work as hard as the two younger players, he said, and he wonders if events might have occurred differently if he had been more mature. He wonders if maybe the Celtics would have included Rondo in the Kevin Garnett trade instead, and that maybe he would have been the one to help the Celtics win the 2008 championship.

All that is history now, though. As Telfair finishes out this season with the Raptors, he sounds like he has come to grips with it.

Then Telfair went and got kicked out of Wednesday’s game against the Celtics when he took offense to Avery Bradley‘s pressure defense, so maybe he has not moved on as much as he says he has.