Celtics guard Sebastian Telfair returned to action last night, less than 24 hours after leaving an exhibition game against the Knicks at halftime to view police lineups related to the shooting of rapper Fabolous early Tuesday morning. Speaking for the first time since cooperating with the New York Police Department, Telfair confirmed that he viewed four lineups at Precinct 13, 11 blocks from Madison Square Garden.
Telfair said he was robbed of a gold chain reportedly worth $50,000 at Justin's Restaurant and Bar -- a trendy Chelsea nightspot owned by rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs and popular among athletes and other celebrities -- where he was dining with his fiancee. Although Telfair would not go into detail, a league source said four men harassed Telfair and ripped the chain from his neck after he moved his car from in front of the restaurant to a nearby parking garage at 10 p.m. Monday. The police believe one of the four men shot Fabolous in the leg a little more than two hours later in the same garage.
Telfair, team officials, and the NYPD agreed it would be best for Telfair to look at the lineups during the second half. Telfair said the time was ``convenient for everyone involved" and the Celtics hoped such quick cooperation would prevent the incident from becoming a distraction for the team and allow Telfair to put the matter behind him.
"My situation with the case is over," said Telfair. ``I fully cooperated. Me and the team fully cooperated with the police of New York City. I gave them what happened and I'm done with it . . . I've still got my life. I'm still here playing basketball. I was the victim of a bad situation."
With the details Telfair confirmed, the description provided by a league source, and comments from the NYPD, it appears Telfair fell victim to one crime and could know valuable information about another, though he was ``not 100 percent sure what happened [to Fabolous]" because ``by that time I was already back in the [team] hotel." NYPD spokesman Kevin Hayes said the police will not confirm ``any people we may be talking to during the course of the investigation unless it leads to an arrest."
A sign by the entrance to Justin's warns patrons that cars parked in front of the restaurant will be ticketed and towed every night at 10:45, which supports the timeline provided by Telfair. According to a league source, the robbery made Telfair very nervous. When Telfair returned to the restaurant, he called a friend to escort him and his fiancee back to the parking garage. Telfair only returned to the restaurant to pick up his fiancee. The pair left the area shortly thereafter, well before the Fabolous shooting.
``There's nothing positive you can take out of the situation," said Telfair. ``I'll think about going out by myself. It's an unfortunate situation. It's the first time anything like this has ever happened to me. I was alone when my situation happened. I went back in the restaurant and I was with my fiancee."
The Celtics, however, wish they knew more -- and sooner -- about the incident. Director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the league notified the team right before halftime that the NYPD wanted to question Telfair. Boston learned just before tipoff that Telfair had been involved in a robbery Monday night, though Ainge noted the team had very few details at the time.
``I'm not disappointed in Sebastian based on the facts I have now," said Ainge. ``If I had heard that Sebastian was out at 2 o'clock in the morning and something like this happened, I'd be very disappointed. I've addressed the team in the past [about these kind of situations]. We live in a different world. There's a lot of people who are jealous and a lot of people out to get them, and they're targets in a lot of cases. Sometimes they bring it on themselves and sometimes they are innocent victims."
Added coach Doc Rivers: ``What do you tell a guy? Not to go out to dinner? I don't know how you avoid this happening. [Not telling us earlier] is judgment from a young player. That's the one thing we did talk to him about. We can help you. We're not going to hurt you. [Not telling us sooner] was the only mistake. I'm sure he probably thought it would get taken care of. He had his attorneys involved and hoped that none of us found out."
Although Telfair is the victim in this instance, he joins a long list of NBA players directly or indirectly involved in dangerous situations. The Celtics have experienced this with the ongoing case against Tony Allen for aggravated battery. When Telfair played for Portland last season, he was fined an undisclosed amount after a loaded gun registered to his then-girlfriend was found on the team's charter at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass .
In an attempt to protect the Coney Island-raised Telfair, Rivers said Telfair missed the second half because of a stomach ailment. When asked why he misled reporters, Rivers claimed he acted in the best interest of Telfair and the team.
``I was pretty much alerted so late in the day of the issue that the decision was made more to protect the players, being able to focus on the game," said Rivers. ``I thought it was the right decision. I wasn't trying to mislead you guys. I didn't have any information. I didn't know what else to say. All I knew was I was not going to make this a circus for the guys in the locker room. If I had to lie [about the stomach ailment], I had to lie on that."
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, however, was not exactly happy with how the team handled the Telfair situation.
``I think once a player, always a player," said Grousbeck. ``Doc went into player mode it sounds like and coach mode, and protected his team and players as he saw fit. I'm not sure that was the right way to do it. We'll talk to Doc and Danny about how it was handled and go from there."
Globe correspondent Kevin Armstrong contributed to this report from New York.