Denton: Nelson Most Respected Player in Magic Locker Room
Magic center Nikola Vucevic said that he learned early on that when Nelson speaks in the locker room that he should be listening. Vucevic, 23, said that Nelson reached out to him not long after he joined the Magic and has always been there to help him.
``It means a lot having a guy like Jameer around here because he’s a great veteran and a great leader,’’ said Vucevic, who hopes to play on Sunday after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. ``We have a very good communication on and off the floor and he helps me out a lot. When I don’t know something, I go ask Jameer. He’s been great to me and I really like playing with him.’’
Nelson said his mentoring style has always been more about substance instead of style. He’s more likely to throw an arm around a teammate behind closed doors than he is to rip a teammate out on the floor.
``I’m not a guy who is going to yell and scream or grab a guy by the shirt, but I think my voice is heard and my actions are watched by the younger guys for sure,’’ he said.
Nelson was a key cog of a Magic organization that made the playoffs six straight seasons from 2006-07 through 2011-12, the longest such streak in the Eastern Conference at the time. During that time, Nelson helped the Magic to their first playoff series win in 12 years in 2008, to the NBA Finals in 2009 and to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.
So going through a tricky transition phase now with the Magic isn’t easy for Nelson. Orlando had the NBA’s worst record last season, and its currently riding a four-game losing streak following Friday’s 38-point loss in New York. Nelson’s minutes have been cut somewhat by the arrival of rookie point guard Victor Oladipo, and he’s been frustrated at times while having to play off the ball.
But Nelson said his dedication to the Magic will not waiver. After all, the Magic were loyal to him early in his career and he wants to stay loyal to the only franchise that he’s ever wanted to play for. ``My commitment to this team, this organization and my teammates help me stay strong,’’ Nelson said. ``I just want to help these guys get better every day, every meeting and every practice. And the game of basketball is still fun to me. It’s a business, but even if I wasn’t getting paid I’d be playing (pick-up basketball) somewhere else.
``The process we’re going through is not an easy process and everybody wants to win. But I don’t think (GM) Rob (Hennigan) would put together a team with guys who didn’t want to win,’’ Nelson continued. ``But we have to stick together and it’s my job to make sure we do that.’’
Follow John Denton on Twitter here