Nelson Sticking Around To Help Magic Rebuild
The Orlando Magic are no longer considered one the elite teams of the NBA. The talk of championship has been replaced with talk rebuilding. Most of the names that helped the Magic win multiple division titles, en route to a berth in the 2009 NBA Finals, are gone.
It's a tough situation for anyone to be in, especially a guy like Jameer Nelson.
Nelson has played his entire nine-year career with Orlando. He's a big part of the team's success and a favorite among the fans. Still, nobody would have blamed Nelson if he decided to leave the Magic after watching his coach, general manager and superstar center leave the franchise. Most veterans want an opportunity to compete for a title; Nelson chose to stick with the Magic.
Now the locker room is his. Nelson has always been a leader, but now he is the go-to guy for in-game production and off-court leadership.
"He's a leader for us. A leader in the locker room and on the floor," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He's a guy that I'm going to count on a lot to convey to the others what we're trying to do. It's been an opportunity for him to understand what I want on the floor and what we need as a team."
Many people will tell you that Nelson has always been the leader despite playing eight years with Dwight Howard. His cool demeanor and direct approach make him the floor general in the locker room and on the court as the playmaker. It Nelson's poise that has made the team’s transition easier. Instead of telling everyone this is his team, he's just being himself and doing the things that have earned him the respect of his teammates.
"I think Jameer has been Jameer; that's just the way he is," J.J. Redick said. "He's just a steady guy and people look to him because he has a great voice and speaks the truth. He buys into team and buys into winning. I haven't seen any change in him, just being himself."
While the 30-year-old guard won't be the focus of attention, it's understood that he'll be called upon to do the heavy lifting for the Magic this season. Nelson’s biggest attribute to the Magic are the intangibles he brings. This season the expectation is that Nelson gets back to the form that earned him a 2009 All-Star selection. The Magic can't afford anything less.
"Jameer is a key factor in our success," Glen Davis said. "He can create, score, and make others better. We're going to try and lean on him as much as possible. Jameer's not by himself, but he's going to be one of the main reasons we're successful.”
Nelson understands what's needed and intends on coming out and aggressively giving the team what they need. However, he won't do anything outside of himself. He's embraced the changes Orlando has made and will do what's needed to fit into the new system without sacrificing his game.
"No matter what system I'm in, I need to be aggressive and help lead the team along with the other veterans," Nelson said. "I need to make sure I need to stay on the attack and help with all of the small things on both ends of the floor."
So far things are going well. The nine-year pro has bought into what Vaughn is asking for, something that is appreciated by the rookie coach.
"He's very receptive and extremely good to be around every day in practice and the same in the locker room," Vaughn said. "He's accepted the style I want to play with and the way I want to coach. And he's accepted the role that he has out the leader in our locker room."
Nobody knows how good the Magic will be. What we do know is Nelson will handle it with the same poise he's handled every other obstacle he's encountered. He's not easily shaken; the transition in Orlando won't change that.