ORLANDO - In Jameer Nelson's eyes, NBA players are either
leaders or they are followers. And the role of being a team
captain for the Orlando Magic is one that he takes quite
seriously and never considers it to be merely a part-time
So with Nelson back on board with the Magic after officially
signing his contract and passing a physical on Monday, the
veteran point guard is anxious to resume his leadership
duties for new-look team.
Nelson and the Magic will be playing for a new head coach
and staff, and the squad could be filled with young players
in need of direction. None of that matters to Nelson, who
said he will look to lead the Magic in the future just as he
had in the past when shared the captain role with Dwight
Howard and the team was composed of mostly veteran
``I look at my role as being a leader regardless of the
circumstance,'' Nelson said. ``I don't see there being
different levels of leadership. You either lead or you don't.
On and off the court, I'm a professional. I'm not a yeller or
screamer, but I'll pull a guy aside and try to help them in
that way as much as I can. I just want to continue to be a
great leader for this team.''
Nelson's professionalism, locker room leadership and skill
on the court are a couple of reasons why new Magic General
Manager Rob Hennigan put a premium on re-signing Nelson, 30,
this offseason. The Magic want Nelson, who has played all
eight of his NBA seasons in Orlando, to be one of the faces
of the franchise in the coming years.
When the two sides were unable to work out a contract
extension before June 29, Nelson exercised an opt-out clause
in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. But
both Nelson and the Magic vowed they wanted him back in
Orlando, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on
a three-year deal just four days into the free agency
Nelson returned from his summer home in suburban
Philadelphia on Sunday night to sign his new contract with
the Magic and complete his physical. It is Nelson's wish, he
said recently, that he will play his entire NBA career in
nothing but a Magic jersey.
``This definitely gets me closer to my goal of staying with
the Magic,'' Nelson said. ``I still feel that I have a lot of
years left in me as a basketball player. I'm still trying to
get better as a player and that's what I'm working to do this
Hennigan continued to work on several franchise-altering
trade proposals on Monday to accommodate the trade request of
Howard. The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are
reportedly trying to land the six-time all-star center. The
Rockets are in a holding pattern because of the offer sheets
extended to New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin and
Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik. As for the Lakers, they could
be offering all-star center Andrew Bynum in return or they
could be trying to involve a third team that would ply the
Magic with the draft picks, young players and salary cap
relief that they could be seeking.
The Magic have also yet to hire a coach, but that process is
expected to heat up in the coming weeks. Hennigan said last
week that he has interviewed several candidates for the head
coaching job, but he has yet to narrow down his list into
what could be considered finalists. The Magic hope to have a
head coach and coaching staff hired by the end of July.
Nelson averaged 11.9 points and 5.7 assists last season and
15.6 points and 6.6 assists in the playoffs. He had 27
points, five 3-pointers and five assists in the Magic's Game
5 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs.
For his eight-year career - all with the Magic - Nelson has
played 527 games and has averaged 12.4 points and 5.0
assists. He is a career 45.6 percent shooter from the floor
and a 37.7 percent from 3-point range.
Nelson said that during his time with the Magic he's had the
ability to grow from a promising, young player to one who is
looked to for more than just his ability on the court.
Nelson's voice in the locker room is arguably the most
respected on the team.
But his style of leadership is usually one centered around
counseling players in private in order to build their
Nelson takes great pride in being looked to as a leader, and
it gave him great joy that the Magic wanted to retain him
because of his professional demeanor and his willingness to
carry the burden of being a Magic team leader.
``As a professional and a leader, you have to do things that
don't always show up on the stat sheet. I carry myself as a
professional on and off the court. It shows that I carry
myself the right way and I'm the man that my parents raised
me to be. The hard work that they put in is showing.''
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or
endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John
Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of
the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff,
partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic
and he has no special access to information beyond the access
and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited
member of the media.