The Celtics have taken the first steps toward severing ties with recently arrested point guard Sebastian Telfair, according to an e-mail sent by co-owner Wyc Grousbeck to Globe reporters shortly after noon yesterday.
"I wanted to let you know that we have removed Sebastian's nameplate from his locker in Waltham," wrote Grousbeck. "The facts and circumstances of his case have not been determined but he does not have a Celtics locker and we do not anticipate that he will."
Executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last night Telfair had not been waived, and that the Celtics had not discussed that as an option.
Andy Miller, Telfair's agent, last night said, "There has been no indication from Danny or from any other representative of the Celtics that my client, Sebastian Telfair, has been waived or released."
Telfair, 21, was arrested early Friday after police found a loaded .45 caliber Colt semiautomatic handgun in his car when he was stopped for speeding with a suspended Florida driver's license on the Bronx River Parkway. The incident occurred shortly before 4 a.m. in Yonkers, N.Y., when police clocked Telfair driving northbound in his 2006 Land Rover at 77 miles per hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone. Telfair posted $7,500 bail Friday afternoon and is scheduled to return to Yonkers City court May 17.
Even before the season ended, team and league sources indicated that the Celtics were looking to trade Telfair. If the Celtics cut Telfair, they will owe him the $2.56 million he is slated to make next season. If the Celtics try to nullify his contract, it will likely cost more in legal fees and aggravation than it is worth. A trade seems to be the best option, though it undoubtedly has become more difficult.
Barring plea negotiations, Telfair will face a felony charge for second-degree possession of a weapon and a misdemeanor charge for second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Second-degree possession of a weapon is considered a Class C violent felony. For someone such as Telfair with no prior felony convictions, the minimum sentence is 3 1/2 years and the maximum is 15 years. Second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle is an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a mandatory fine of at least $500 and either three years' probation or a maximum of six months in jail.
"It is fair to say that if the charges were true, it wouldn't make me too proud to have somebody I know who was speeding without a license and with a gun in the trunk," said NBA commissioner David Stern to reporters during halftime of the New Jersey-Toronto playoff game last night. "I don't know what the ultimate disposition of that is going to be but our players do have an obligation to conduct themselves in a way that demonstrates the appropriate respect for the game."
The e-mail by Grousbeck came almost two years after Ainge vowed to enforce a stricter code of conduct for the Celtics, to "have higher expectations for day-in and day-out behavior." In most instances of unacceptable behavior since then, Boston has kept disciplinary decisions private. Before Telfair found himself in trouble with the law, the franchise waited for the court system to run its course before deciding on punishments. The benefits of such pragmatism were in evidence yesterday when an Illinois judge dismissed aggravated battery charges against guard Tony Allen.
But Telfair's arrest marks the third time in 15 months that the point guard has found himself making headlines for the wrong reasons.
In February 2006, he was fined an undisclosed amount by the Portland Trail Blazers after a loaded gun registered to his future wife was found on the team's charter at Hanscom Field. In October, the police questioned Telfair with regard to the shooting of rapper Fabolous. Telfair left an exhibition game between the Celtics and the Knicks at Madison Square Garden to view four lineups related to the shooting, which concluded his official involvement with the case.
According to Telfair's attorney, Ed Hayes, the player's willingness to cooperate with authorities in the Fabolous case led to a number of threats and caused the point guard to fear for his safety and that of his pregnant wife.
The gun in question is registered to Telfair's wife, said Hayes. Although the Land Rover is registered in Telfair's name, Hayes said, his wife and his wife's driver regularly use the vehicle.
"I just think that what [the Celtics] did was with the season over they saw a chance to take a public relations shot and they did," said Hayes. "He doesn't do drugs. He doesn't smoke. He takes good care of his family. He's never been involved in any of those deals with beating girlfriends or causing trouble in nightclubs. He is not a guy who embarrasses you. He's a nice young guy. He's had a tough year.
"Why do that [make a public statement about removing the nameplate]? Why not say, 'Give it a little time. We'll see what happened.' They should show more restraint after they told him not to cooperate with police against a group of hoodlums [in the Fabolous case] who have been terrorizing athletes and celebrities across the country."
As Telfair works to clear his name in court, Boston hopes he finds a new home in another NBA city.
While some in the organization still believe Telfair can be a solid player, he didn't fit with the Celtics -- even though they traded Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau, the rights to the seventh overall pick in 2006, and cash to the Trail Blazers for the point guard, Theo Ratliff, and a 2008 second-round pick in a draft-day deal last June. The No. 7 pick was used on guard Randy Foye, who was shipped from Portland to Minnesota, where he played all 82 games and averaged 22.9 minutes and 10.1 points.
Despite given a chance to start this season, Telfair was demoted to backup in late December. By the end of the season, he was a third-stringer, averaging 4.0 points per game and 1.9 assists in 15.2 minutes per game from February through the season finale. For the season, Telfair averaged 6.1 points per game and 2.8 assists in 20.2 minutes per game. Those scoring and assist totals represented the worst numbers of his three-year NBA career, as was the case with Telfair shooting 37 percent this season.
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.