Denton: Nelson Hopeful to Play Tonight

By John Denton
November 16, 2012

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Orlando Magic are hoping for the possible return of their captain and leader tonight when they face the Detroit Pistons at 7:30 p.m. And the Magic are also hopeful that if Jameer Nelson can indeed play, their winning ways will return as well.

Nelson, who has missed the past six games with a strained groin and hamstring combination, is a game-time decision when the Magic (2-5) face the Pistons (1-8) at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Nelson, a co-captain along with Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, practiced Monday, Wednesday and Thursday will no ill-effects and went through shooting drills with the team on Friday morning. If there is no lingering pain, Nelson will return to the starting lineup and E’Twaun Moore will go back to a reserve role.

``I feel pretty good and I’m starting to get there,’’ Nelson said Friday morning. ``I’ve just got to keep progressing and get my conditioning better. And keep healing right.’’

Since opening the season with stirring home victories against Denver and Phoenix, the Magic have dropped their last five games in a row. Orlando led the undefeated New York Knicks with 10 minutes to play, but stumbled down the stretch and lost 99-89. The hope is that the return of Nelson, the longest-tenured Magic player, will help the team in functioning better at the end of games in tense situations.

``(Nelson) is seasoned and the way he plays the game he affects everyone else,’’ Davis said of the Magic’s point guard. ``Teams can’t double-team (off Nelson) and load up on others. Jameer is going to help tremendously and that will bring E’Twaun to the bench to score and help out there.’’

Nelson said it’s been frustrating to have to sit and watch while the Magic have struggled offensively and struggled to close out games. Nelson wanted to play on Tuesday night against the Knicks, but the training staff and head coach Jacque Vaughn held him out so as to not risk aggravation of the injury that would linger for weeks.

``We have some of the smartest guys in our training staff and coach has been very cautious, so we’ve just tried to be smart,’’ Nelson said. ``I’m a competitor so anytime that I get injured I want to be back the next day. But I have learned from my previous injuries that sometimes it’s smarter to listen, one, to your body and secondly the training staff.’’

The Magic are beginning a three-game roadtrip against three teams with losing records – 1-8 Detroit (tonight), 2-6 Toronto (Sunday afternoon) and 3-4 Atlanta (Monday). The hope is that following a tough stretch of games against elite opponents that Orlando can rack up a string of wins against some struggling foes.

Detroit got its first win of the season earlier in the week when it went to Philadelphia and limited the 76ers to 29.8 percent shooting in a 94-76 victory. Center Greg Monroe had 19 points, 18 rebounds and six assists in that game and he will be a challenge for Magic 7-footer Nikola Vucevic tonight.

Davis was emotional and vocal after the Magic’s loss on Tuesday, saying the team can’t blame youth or inexperience as excuses for their struggles down the stretch. Davis said that a win tonight against the Pistons would do wonders for the team’s psyche and confidence.

``We need a win. I can’t describe how bad we need a win because we can’t get in the habit of taking losses,’’ Davis said. ``The last game was a tough one because we were up the whole game and we were fighting the whole game and let it go at the end. We can’t do that and get tougher in every aspect and smarter in how we approach the games mentally. This is a game that we have to get.’’

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John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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