Denton: Nelson Recalls Time Playing for Clifford & Co.

By John Denton
Jan. 17, 2014

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, the team’s lone remaining link to the 2009 team that made a run to the NBA Finals, admitted that he might get a little bit nostalgic when he glanced over at the Charlotte Bobcats bench.

The Bobcats’ bench has a distinct Magic feel to it what with Steve Clifford now serving as the head coach and Patrick Ewing being the associate head coach. They, along with assistant coaches Bob Beyer and Mark Price, coached in Orlando for five seasons from 2007-2012.

Nelson remembers that coaching staff fondly because they helped the Magic to five straight playoff appearances, including the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. Nelson considers those coaches some of the most influential people he’s worked with during his 10 seasons in the NBA.

``It’s one of those things that is bittersweet because of what we went through here together and accomplished together, but I’m also happy for those guys,’’ Nelson said. ``They taught me a lot over my career and helped me mold myself into who I am as a player. And off the court as well, those guys were mentors to me. You have a guy like Patrick Ewing, who had so much success as a player and you can’t do anything but respect him.’’

Clifford said his time in Orlando has been among the best he’s had in the NBA, and he said his experience with the Magic greatly helped him become a head coach in the NBA.

``Our years here, obviously selfishly for me, were five great years,’’ Clifford said. ``We had everything in line. … We had an experienced, professional team that was committed to winning. And everyone was on the same page. You look at the years that we had here, it was such a great situation and a lot of fun.’’

MEMORIES FOR VICTOR: When Magic guard Victor Oladipo scored 35 points in Wednesday’s triple-overtime thriller against the Chicago Bulls, it proved to be a new NBA career high for him. In fact, Oladipo said it’s the most points that he’s ever scored at any level of basketball – junior high, AAU, high school or college.

``I wasn’t good until about last year, anyway,’’ joked Oladipo, referring to his late-bloomer status as a basketball player.

With his big night, Oladipo became the first Magic rookie in franchise history to have 35 points and eight assists in the same game. The 35 points are also the most points scored this season by a NBA rookie, topping the 33 that Philadelphia point guard Michael Carter-Williams scored earlier this season.

Oladipo recorded the first triple-double of his career on Dec. 3 when he had 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a double-overtime game against the Sixers. But he said that Wednesday’s three-OT thriller would move to the top of his list as far as NBA memories.

``That’s one of the biggest games that I’ve ever had and probably the longest game I’ve ever had too,’’ Oladipo said. ``It was pretty cool to be a part of.’’

Oladipo made his mark in high school and college as a defensive player with elite athleticism. Being a go-to offensive player and a player looked to to make plays in pick-and-roll sets is a first for him. He’s just recently began working on high-arching, teardrop jumpers and layups high off the glass – moves that should help him better finish around the rim and over shot-blocking centers.

Vaughn thinks that Oladipo’s offensive game will only get better as he’s put in situations where he’s asked to score and he works to add tools to his offensive arsenal.

``For a long time the reason he got noticed early in his life was his ability to play defense,’’ Vaughn said. ``I just think it shows where he’s at in his career. Part of the reason that we like him so much is because his kind of just scratching the surface of all the things he’s able to do. It’s a new level for him to be extremely confident on the offensive end of the floor.’’