Nelson Had Huge Influence on Harris and Oladipo
By John Denton
July 1, 2014
ORLANDO -- Jameer Nelson is gone from Orlando Magic, having been waived on Monday by the only team that he’s ever played for in 10 NBA seasons. But the pint-sized point guard’s legacy will live on for years to come in the habits he helped to instill in several of the Magic’s impressionable young players.
``He had a huge influence on me. Sitting with him every day in practice and on the team plane he gave me so much information that was helpful and I’m going to use it the rest of my career,’’ said Magic standout Victor Oladipo, who had a stellar rookie season in part because of Nelson’s guidance. ``Without him, last season would have been a tough year for me. I truly do appreciate everything that he did for me. I’ll keep in touch with him forever and I wish the best for him and his family.’’
In a move designed to transfer leadership of the team to the core of young players and create future salary cap flexibility, Nelson was waived by the Magic just before the NBA’s free-agency period opened at midnight. Contractually, the Magic had until July 15 to make a decision on Nelson, but they acted on Monday so that Nelson could have every chance available to continue his career with another team. The 32-year-old point guard, who is the Magic’s all-time leader in assists and one of just two players ever to wear a Magic uniform for 10 seasons, hopes to keep playing in the NBA before someday going into coaching.
``We’re going to miss Jameer a lot because he was always a true professional for us. Being able to play with a guy like that is great for my career,’’ Magic forward Tobias Harris said. ``I wish nothing but the best for him going forward. Whatever team picks him up going forward is going to be happy to have a player like him.’’
While Waiving Nelson now saves the Magic $6 million on the salary cap, it also takes away some valuable experience on the roster. Combined with the trading of shooting guard Arron Afflalo to Denver, the Magic figure to be one of the youngest teams in the NBA next season. Orlando drafted 18-year-old forward Aaron Gordon, 20-year-old point guard Elfrid Payton and 21-year-old shooting guard Devyn Marble and acquired 21-year-old shooting guard Evan Fournier in the Denver deal.
Harris, who is affectionately nicknamed ``All Business’’ because of his serious, no-nonsense approach, said that he understands that there will be somewhat of a leadership void next season following the losses of Nelson and Afflalo. Heading into his fourth NBA season, Harris hopes to be a veteran player that the Magic can count on for consistency and guidance.
``I’m going to have to be a leader. I’m not shy to do that and I want to be a leader on this team,’’ said Harris, who averaged 14.6 points and 7.0 rebounds a game last season. ``I want to help us get better and make things happen for our team, whether that’s with my play or getting everybody going and playing as hard as I can. I know that I will have to fill that (leadership) role. We all know how young that we are going to be, so that’s assuming that leadership role is something I look forward to doing.’’
Oladipo said that he will never forget the first time that he met Nelson in the weeks after he was selected No. 2 in the 2013 NBA Draft. By all intents and purpose, Oladipo was drafted to replace the aging Nelson, but the veteran point guard went out of his way to make Oladipo feel comfortable in Orlando. And throughout the season, Nelson was usually in the rookie’s ear offering up advice.
``I came into the practice facility one day and people told me that Jameer had been asking where I was. He just came up to me and introduced himself and he didn’t have to do that,’’ Oladipo remembered. ``And from the first pick-up game he was out there teaching me. Whether it was sitting with him on the plane or going out to eat together, he was always teaching me something. I really do appreciate him for doing that for me.’’
Oladipo and Harris also appreciated the leadership style that Nelson employed with them. Rarely would Nelson offer up instruction or harsh critiques during a game, instead waiting until afterwards when emotions were more tempered. And Nelson would always go out of his way to talk to teammates in the privacy of the locker room or on the team plane so as to not trample on the sometimes fragile psyche of a young player.
``You knew with Jameer that he was never trying to embarrass you and I appreciated him doing that,’’ Oladipo recalled. ``He was just a willing teacher and he taught me so much that I needed to know. I really appreciate him and I’ll take the stuff he taught me with me the rest of my career.’’
Nelson leaves Orlando as the franchise’s all-time leader in assists with 3,501. He also ranks second in games played (651) and field goal attempts (7,033), third in minutes played (19,038), 3-pointers made (874) and 3-pointers attempted (2,335), fourth in scoring (8,184 points) and field goals made (3,109) and fifth in steals (619). His true legacy, however, will be the impact that he had on many of the Magic’s players and the approach that they have toward the game in the years to come.
``When I got here from Milwaukee (following a 2013 trade) Jameer came to me and told me that I had a great opportunity in Orlando and that I just needed to play my game and he would help me. That gave me a lot of confidence right off the bat,’’ Harris said. ``He’s a guy, with his credentials and his time in the league, when he said something you would listen to it and respect it. He was a guy who was always trying to help us be better as players. He definitely tried to help us get better and that’s something that I will always remember and appreciate about Jameer.’’