NBA Saturday: Telfair Excited For Free Agency
Sebastian Telfair has played for five NBA teams, but he’s rarely had a say in where he lands. The Portland Trail Blazers drafted him in 2004. Over the years, he was traded to the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers. The only team he handpicked and signed with was the Minnesota Timberwolves, with whom he played 37 games last season.
Now, Telfair will have the opportunity to decide his own fate once again. Once the lockout ends, he will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time since 2008. The 26-year-old point guard is excited for the opportunity to test the market and find the situation that’s right for him.
“When you’re a free agent, you can pick and choose,” Telfair told HOOPSWORLD. “That’s a unique situation for me. I think it’s a very good situation. I’ll be exactly where I want to be and find a place that works for me. I’ll be able to find a team that I know I can help out. I want to go to a team where I know we’re competing for the big goal and everyone is playing for that same reason. I want to help them reach that point. I know I can bring something to one of those teams. I want to be a part of a team that’s really competing. Once I do that, my career will start moving at a faster pace and in the right direction.”
During his first seven years in the league, Telfair’s career hasn’t gone exactly as planned. When Telfair left Lincoln High School for the NBA, he was the phenom that was supposed to make the transition to superstar once in the league. He was hyped up unlike any high school point guard had been in recent years, which led to him signing an endorsement deal with adidas before he played in his first NBA game.
Since entering the league, Telfair hasn’t played with the same team for more than two seasons at a time and he’s had nine different head coaches. Few players have had to endure that much chaos early in their career, and it was difficult for Telfair to develop in an ever-changing environment.
“I will say this, that’s been the biggest frustration of my entire career,” Telfair said. “It’s been so frustrating, but I know I still have a lot of basketball to play. I’m still healthy and young.”
Telfair has also never had the opportunity to play for a winner. He’s been acquired by multiple organizations, but only one, the Cavaliers, were a playoff team during his stint. In fact, the other four teams averaged just 23.4 wins during Telfair’s stints. Portland, Boston, Los Angeles and Minnesota were in rebuilding phases when Telfair was in town, and then improved shortly after he left, oftentimes because he was included in a trade that allowed the team to take a step in the right direction. He has almost always been traded for veterans, from Kevin Garnett to Quentin Richardson to Ramon Sessions.
While the losses were frustrating, Telfair is even more upset that he hasn’t been able to suit up for a playoff game. He wasn’t part of Cleveland’s rotation in 2009 because he was acquired midseason, and his other teams weren’t even close to making the postseason. This is the main reason he wants to play for a winner and he can’t wait to end his drought as early as next season.
“I just didn’t get the opportunity to perform on that certain stage in the NBA,” Telfair said. “I haven’t played on the biggest stage, when all the lights are on and everyone is watching. For whatever reason, it just happened like that. I’ll tell you one thing, the time will come. And when it does, I’ll be ready for it.”
Telfair’s travels, trials and tribulations have forced him to mature. The wide-eyed kid that entered the league seven years ago is now a battle-tested man, who sees the world in a completely different light.
“I’m a whole different person,” Telfair said. “First of all, I’m a better person, especially from a professional standpoint. I understand the business a little bit more. I understand that I have to take my job seriously and I understand all of things I have to do. I definitely have a different mindset and approach to the game as well. I’m going into my eighth season and all of the experiences I went through as a young professional have taught me a lot. I won’t make those same mistakes that I’ve already learned from in the past.”
Just as the opportunity to find the right situation and get his career back on track presented itself, the lockout put his future up in the air once again. Now, he’s training in Las Vegas as he waits for a new collective bargaining agreement to be ratified. He doesn’t know where he’ll be playing next season, but he’s working hard to prepare for whatever the future holds.
“It’s definitely stressful. If there was no lockout, all of us guys without contracts would have been signed already, but now we’re just waiting here for this to end. You’re just not sure what’s going to happen and this is your livelihood. It’s how you make a living. I know these guys will work this out and proceed with these negotiations, but I’m just remaining professional. Right now, the best thing for me to do is stay in the gym. I’m keeping my mind off of the negotiations and working hard. I’m extra focused,” Telfair said.
Several international teams have reached out to Telfair, but he’s waiting to see what happens with the labor talks before deciding to sign in another league.
“I actually turned down an overseas offer from a team in Russia on Wednesday,” Telfair said. “They had been in contact with my agent, but I turned it down due to the fact that I want to wait on the lockout and see where things stand. I know the Chinese league is starting up soon and I’m expecting to get a few offers from teams over there so we’ll see what happens. My heart says to play basketball, but I want to play it in the NBA.”
He’s currently playing in Impact Basketball’s Competitive Training Series, which has given him an opportunity to test his game against other point guards such as John Wall, Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups.
“I’ve been coming to Impact Basketball for a couple of years, but this time it’s special because of the lockout,” Telfair said. “We have all of these players here for the tournament and it’s always cool to have all of the NBA guys in the building during the summertime. I’m definitely taking a lot from the experience and enjoying it. It’s always good to test yourself against some top competition and see where you’re game is at during the summer. It makes a lot of sense to have this.”
After five teams, seven years and nine coaches, Telfair is hoping to finally find the right situation and have everything come together. Telfair’s career has gotten off to a rough start, but he’s determined to prove he can still be a difference maker in the league, if given the opportunity.
Rashard Lewis Altering His Game: The Orlando Magic traded Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards last December, but the forward was only able to play in 32 games before his season ended prematurely due to injury. While Lewis’ nagging knee injury shortened his season and affected his production, he doesn’t expect similar problems this year.
Lewis is completely healthy and competing in Impact Basketball’s Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas. He’s suiting up alongside teammates John Wall, JaVale McGee, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and Larry Owens, and feeling great.
Now, as Lewis prepares for this upcoming season, he’s making several alterations to his game. While he became known as a spot-up shooter during his time in Orlando, he wants to ditch that label in Washington.
“I’m trying to get away from being just a spot-up shooter,” Lewis told HOOPSWORLD. “My whole goal is to get back to attacking the basket, posting up and being a small forward like I was in Seattle. I’m not complaining about being a spot-up shooter in Orlando because it was great and I’ll do anything for the team to help win games. That’s how we won ball games, by spreading the floor and having Dwight [Howard] inside. Now, for me, I have to get back to being aggressive and attacking the basket as well as shooting the three.”
In two of the three full years that Lewis was with the Magic, he attempted more than 500 three-point shots. He led the NBA in three-point shots made and attempted during the 2008-2009 season. That won’t be the case in Washington, where he’ll play a very different role under Flip Saunders.
Not only is Lewis looking forward to reinventing his game, he’s also excited to provide leadership. The Wizards are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and could use a veteran’s guidance and presence in the locker room. Last year, Lewis tried to impart wisdom, but that’s difficult to do when you’re on the bench wearing street clothes.
“That’s the most important part of me being healthy because it’s hard to talk from the sidelines,” Lewis said. “It’s hard being that leader from the bench. Going out there and being in the trenches with them, that’s when the guys listen to you a little bit more.”
Lewis’ young teammates should be more inclined to listen when he’s on the court, scoring in a variety of ways.
One CBA Down, One To Go: The NBA’s players and owners aren’t close to ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement, but one lockout did end this week. On Thursday evening, the NBA announced that the league had entered a new agreement with the National Basketball Referees Association.
The deal will last five years and run through the 2015-2016 season. The five-year agreement was ratified by the NBA Board of Governors during Thursday’s meeting in Dallas. Per league policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
This was the first long-term deal that the NBA and its referees have agreed to in several years. In 2009, the league’s officials went on strike and replacement refs were temporarily used during the preseason. The two sides reached a two-year deal, but it was clear that there were still many issues to be worked out.
The referees, like the players, had filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NBA earlier this offseason, citing “the league’s refusal to negotiate with the union concerning non-economic issues.”
Now, the two sides have a deal. Let’s hope the players and owners follow suit.
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