PHOENIX – Sebastian Telfair left Abraham Lincoln High School as arguably the top point guard prospect in the nation.
He was selected 13th in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers ahead of guys like Al Jefferson, Josh Smith and Jameer Nelson.
Ronnie Price, on the other hand, graduated Clear Brook High School at 5-foot-7 with no college offers to his name.
After walking on at Nicholls State University, transferring to Utah Valley University and turning in three historic seasons with the Wolverines, Price went undrafted before signing with the Sacramento Kings.
Price and Telfair couldn’t have taken more different paths to the NBA, yet after signing with the Suns this offseason, they remain in a dead-heat for the role of Steve Nash’s backup.
“They’re in a heck of a battle to see who’s going to be the backup point guard,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry at Media Day.
Telfair was the first point guard to sign with Phoenix, which made him seem like the clear-cut favorite for the job. But after adding Price to the mix on Tuesday, the backup point guard battle began to heat up.
Both Telfair and Price bring different skills to the table – Telfair playmaking and traditional point guard skills, Price defense and athleticism – so they’ll both most likely see the floor this season.
“They both give us guys that are capable and give us great depth as guys with different strengths,” Steve Nash said of Telfair and Price. “It’s fantastic to have a few guys that can play the position.”
Although Telfair and Price add depth to a backcourt that’s been lacking exactly that, there are only so many minutes to go around. While Price spoke of the Suns’ offense finally opening up skills people don’t know he has, Telfair isn’t ready to concede defeat.
“I’m pretty confident in myself that I’ll be out there on the court,” Telfair said. “Everything’s competition. We all going head to head every day so we’ll when the season starts.”
I’d expect Telfair to win the job because of his ability to run the offense. He’s been constricted by methodical, structured systems in the past, and Phoenix may be the perfect place for a rebirth.
“The one thing about him is that I don’t think he’s ever really been in a position where it was a good fit for him,” Gentry said. “I think this can be a really good fit for him. I told him we fought to get him here. He’s a young player that’s been in the league a long time that’s still searching for that right fit. I told him it happens all the time in this league.”
Price is close with Suns assistant Elston Turner and gives Phoenix a proven defender and athlete. But Gentry seems to have a vested interest in Telfair, and learning from Nash in a wide-open system, Phoenix is the one place Telfair could turn around his underwhelming career.
“He’s still got a lot of basketball left,” Gentry said. “I told him we want to try and make this a good fit for him.”