By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN NBA Matchup: Earl Boykins or Sebastian Telfair?
PHILADELPHIA — Step right up and take your pick. In one corner, you have high former school phenom, Sebastian Telfair and in the other, former collegiate scoring sensation and now established veteran point guard, Earl Boykins.
One player is a perennial Sixth-Man of the Year candidate while the other is still struggling to adjust to the NBA three years after being touted as the next great point guard to come out of New York City.
Which player is the best and which would you rather have on your team for the near future? Those are the questions and answers will follow after and my answers will follow after a brief look at each player’s respective career.
Boykins, currently with the Milwaukee Bucks after a recent trade, has also played with the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets in an NBA career that has lasted nine years and counting.
After playing collegiately at Eastern Michigan University from 1995 to 1998, Boykins earned All-Mid-American Conference first team honors in his junior and senior year. Boykins was also second in the nation in scoring average his senior year at Eastern Michigan (25.7 points per game) and is the school’s career record holder in assists.
Although Boykins has prolific statistics and unquestioned ability, his transition to the NBA had more than its fair share of obstacles as he spent two years in the CBA, where he played for the Rockford Lightning. After bouncing around the league as supposedly, limited, reserve role player for his first five years in the NBA, Boykins finally began to solidify his career with the Nuggets, who signed him to a guaranteed contract in 2004.
Now, Boykins is one of the most electrifying players in the league and a player who could score 20 a game in his sleep if his team asked him to.
“He’s one of the most difficult guys to guard. When I played, Muggsy played,” Chicago Bulls head coach and former NBA point guard, Scott Skiles, said n a recent interview. “He’s very similar to [Bogues], except he’s a better scorer. It’s not something you can simulate in practice or anything. The guy has his own unique thing going and sometimes he’s very difficult to deal with.”
Not only is he is one of the quickest guards in the league, but one of the smartest as well, which is why he never haves trouble getting his shot off against taller defenders.
“I don’t know how I’m able to do some of the things that I’m doing. It’s just a God-given talent to play. When I step out on the court, I’m always the smallest,” Boykins recently said. “I don’t have to adjust to anybody, whoever I play against, they always have to adjust to my game.”
At 5’5″, Boykins is the shortest active NBA player and the second shortest player in NBA history behind Muggsy Bogues, who was 5’3″. Boykins weighs only 133 pounds but can sources say he can bench press 315 pounds.
“I was always in a position where people didn’t think I was tall enough, but once I stepped on the court I was always able to overcome it,” Boykins said. “The hardest thing for any small guy is to overcome the prejudice in this league that you can’t play. Once you’re given the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it because when you’re 5-5, you’re only going to be given one opportunity”.
Telfair was the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Portland railblazers out of Abraham Lincoln High School in New York City and standing only 5’11″, Telfair is also the shortest high school player ever to be drafted in NBA history.
Telfair’s rookie season was an inconsistent roller-coaster ride in which the former phenom got a quick taste of the realization that the NBA was far from the high school league in New York that he dominated so ceremoniously.
In February of 2005, former Blazers interim head coach Kevin Pritchard, promoted Telfair to the starting lineup and although Telfair put up decent numbers, the dysfunctional Trail Blazers lost 23 of their final 28 games and finished with the team’s worst record since 1975.
Under new head coach Nate McMillan, Telfair began last season as the team’s starting point guard and was occasionally paired in the backcourt with another high-school draftee taken in 2005, Martell Webster.
Telfair’s production was an improvement over his rookie numbers, but it was still considered below par for a starting NBA point guard.
Telfair’s grace period shortened as he experienced increasing pressure from the Portland media and was eventually replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Steve Blake who was much less flashy but far more effective.
After backing up Blake for the remainder of the season, the Trail Blazers traded Telfair in June of 2006 along with center Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick to the Boston Celtics for guard Dan Dickau, center Raef LaFrentz and the seventh overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.
This season, Telfair has again struggled although the Celtics acquired him – and gave him every opportuniy – to be their starting point guard in their supposedly new, up-tempo offensive system.
After it became apparent that former starter, Delonte West, was a much better point guard than Telfair, the Celtics switched back to the more mature and better shooting, West.
Telfair has also had more than his share of off-court incidents since arriving in the NBA was well, raising eyebrows from execs and personnel men around the league.
On February 15, 2006, a loaded handgun was found in Sebastian Telfair’s pillowcase on the Blazers’ private jet at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Telfair told authorities the gun belonged to his girlfriend and that he inadvertently grabbed the wrong bag when leaving for the team’s road trip. The gun was registered to Samantha Q. Rodriguez, Telfair’s girlfriend of five years.
On February 21, the Massachusetts State Police announced that no charges would be filed against Telfair in the incident On February 23, the NBA front office announced that Telfair would receive a 2-game suspension for breaking the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which prohibits NBA players from carrying firearms while on league business.
On October 16, 2006, Telfair had a chain reported to be worth $50,000 snatched from him while he was outside P. Diddy’s restaurant in New York, Justin’s.
The following night, Telfair left a preseason basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden to attend a police lineup, where he did not make any identification.
A rumor began to circulate that he was seen making a phone call roughly an hour before rapper Fabolous was shot outside of the same club. Telfair voluntarily surrendered his cell phone records to police, and is not under investigation for any involvement, despite rumors to the contrary.
All statistics aside,, I would much rather have Boykins on my team than Telfair. Not only is Boykins much more mature, being an older veteran player, but he is hands-down a much better scorer and has a more complete understanding of the game. Telfair has generally been a huge disappointment form a player selected so high and hasn’t really shown any growth since entering the league three years ago.
Telfair is still very young and could one day become a legitimate starting point guard at some point of his career. However, that is far from a certainty at this point and may never happen. The bottome line is that Boykins is undeniably a better player now and may always be.