He was always portrayed as a bright light. Maybe it was the smile or the charm or his frankness.
Documentaries were made about Sebastian Telfair. Books were written. There was almost a heroic backdrop to these portraits; at times they seemed like sonnets. Love letters to a kid trying to break out of a rough neighborhood and make a better life for himself.
|The documentaries, the books -- they made Sebastian Telfair out to be a basketball-toting hero. (Provided to SportsLine)|
Then I began phoning NBA executives I knew.
One or two were cautious; both were cryptic.
"Don't be fooled," said one.
Don't be fooled. Whenever I think of Telfair now, those words bounce in my head like a drumbeat.
No one has ever said -- then and now, on the record or off -- that Telfair is a bad person. He's no Pacman Jones, no purveyor of turdism.
Yet clearly there were at least a small number of NBA teams that had private concerns about Telfair. Some thought he was too young for the NBA. Others thought he simply was not as talented as advertised.
Telfair's story is a rabid cautionary tale, one of a handful of counter-agents to the sometimes panacea-like portrayal in the media that high school kids who make the big jump can all be like Kobe or LeBron.
But Telfair's tale is more than just about Telfair and the gun incidents that are beginning to stack up like firewood. The team that just fired him -- the Boston Celtics -- should take just as much of a hit as Telfair.
The Celtics trading for Telfair is one in a series of missteps and horrible personnel decisions that have led to the current demise of one of the great franchises in the history of sports. The list of recent bad moves and bad luck is long for the Celtics and not worth rehashing now. Danny Ainge might have been a feisty player but he is thus far a miserable executive.
Of all the Celtics' issues and problems, their handling of Telfair is subtly one of the worst of them all. Ainge made him the focus of their 2006 deal with Portland, and after trading a high pick to get Telfair will end up with nothing in return.
Like a lot of people, Ainge drastically over-valued Telfair's abilities.
He was fooled.
Ainge was not alone in being bamboozled. Other teams and even media types were suckered by the allure of a player who was too short, too turnover prone and whose ability to hit jump shots was as poor as his apparent understanding of gun laws. Sebastian Telfair played defense like his name was Sebastian Unger.
Some in the media believe the Celtics getting rid of Telfair was drastic and harsh, particularly in light of some of the troubles of other recent Celtics players.
But there is something disturbing about Telfair -- with previous gun incidents already -- allegedly getting busted by police with a loaded handgun under the passenger seat of his car and a supposed expired driver's license in his pocket.
No, not this time. Won't be fooled. The Celtics recently removed the nameplate from his locker and told Telfair he and his alleged gun won't be back. The Celtics might be hypocrites; the true reason they are dismissing Telfair is because of the realization that he is a marginal player.
But at least they finally stopped being suckered.
Telfair will end up somewhere in the NBA because he is not a bad guy and he will flash a smile and some gullible team will over-value his talent. Again.
Or maybe, just maybe, these teams, for once, will refuse to be fooled.