Looking Ahead

Sebastian Telfair is focused on being a dependable contributor for the Wolves.

Rather than focusing on the rearview mirror, Timberwolves point guard Sebastian Telfair spends most of his time looking ahead. Living in the present and looking to the future, Telfair likes what he sees on and off the basketball court.

Telfair was traded before the 2007-08 season to Minnesota as part of the multiple player switcheroo with the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett. That resulted in Telfair playing for the third team in his four-year career. Telfair, a national basketball star since his teenage days of playing AAU and high school basketball in New York City, is trying to do what he can to translate that star-studded success he experienced as an amateur onto the basketball courts of the NBA.

While Telfair can be commended for his work ethic, positive attitude, and team-first attitude displayed at Target Center since his arrival more than a year ago, the past fades slowly. The Wolves were once again reminded of that a month ago when the season began without Telfair.

Telfair missed the first three games of this season because he was suspended without pay for pleading guilty to a weapons charge. The guilty plea stemmed from an April 2007 incident in New York.

After a year in Portland, Telfair was the pivotal piece of a draft-day deal with the Boston Celtics in which Boston sent Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau, and a first-round pick to the Blazers for Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and a second-round draft pick. After two years, the Celtics cut ties with Telfair, but Boston general manager Danny Ainge saw a bright future for the young point guard.

“He's no trouble on a team,” Ainge said, in Telfair’s final days with the Celtics. “He never complains. He works hard. He comes in every day competing for a job. I know how people view him. He is a product of how he was raised. The off-the-court things we do take seriously. We do have a code of conduct. But I really think he’ll learn from all this. I still think he’s going to be a productive NBA player.”

Telfair’s first season in Minnesota was without incident off the court. On the court, Telfair recorded career highs in several offensive categories: Shooting percentage, assists per game, and games started. The Timberwolves rewarded Telfair over the summer with a three-year contract.

Like Telfair, the Wolves front office is willing to leave the past in the past. “I’ve talked to Sebastian about the incident,” said Kevin McHale, Wolves VP of Basketball Operations at the time. “This is something that happened in the past, and he is looking forward to putting this behind him.”

Telfair seconds that motion.

“I hate that it came up so long after,” Telfair said of the three-game suspension from the weapons charge. “But it’s in the past now. And I can move on.”

Perhaps the most difficult part of the three-game suspension was sitting at home and watching the Wolves start the season 1-2 without Telfair. “If my TV wasn’t on the wall, I probably would have kicked it in,” Telfair joked.

In Telfair and Randy Foye, the Timberwolves have a 1-2 punch at point guard that provides plenty of options, fast or slow. A fast-paced game fits Telfair’s style.

“I’ve been getting guys to run up and down the floor with me and getting guys open shots. I feel good about my jump shot,” Telfair said. “Like I said in the summer, I took the most jumpers I ever took in the offseason, so I’m feeling really comfortable about my jumper.”

Telfair looks forward to building on what he started in his first season as a Timberwolf last year. Playing in 60 games, and starting a career-high 51, Telfair averaged 9.3 points and a career-best 5.9 assists per game. It was also the first season in which he shot better than 40 percent from the field.

Telfair considers his first season with the Wolves as a needed maturation process.

“I think I’ve become a student of the game more and more,” Telfair said. “I think last season was one of the first seasons where I actually communicated with the coaches and Mac and those guys off the court, asking them questions about what I need to do and watching film and things like that. I think it really helped me get better during the season. It wasn’t something that I focused on and understood that’s what I had to do to get better. Coming into this season I wanted to do everything right. I wanted to continue to be a better player. I started watching some film and listening to the coaches a little bit more and it helped out.”

A solid individual season for Telfair ended on a disappointing note — he missed the final 21 games because of an ankle injury.

“I’m feeling healthy,” he said. “I think I took the right amount of time off to get my ankle to be good. I was a little upset that I didn’t come back last season because I wanted to play and continue to prove myself, but now I feel that it was the right move for me to continue and sit out and get this ankle 100 percent.

“I came here last year and had a good season — didn’t win as many games — but the Wolves definitely wanted me back and I’m happy to be back there.”

The Wolves are equally as happy.

“What we’re looking for is dependable contributors,” McHale said. “We really feel Sebastian can be a dependable contributor to our team. ‘Bassy’ and I had a lot of talks about how much he thinks he should play and what he should do and shouldn’t do on the floor. I keep on telling him that if you keep putting your hand on the hot burner, you’re going to get burned and you’re going to quit putting it on there. Sebastian turned the corner a few times where there was nowhere to go. I said ‘hey, you have to know where you are driving.’”

For Telfair, that’s forward, not backward.