Denton: Nelson Set to Become Franchise Assists Leader
By John Denton
January 7, 2013
PORTLAND, Ore. – After a couple of scoring outbursts in his two games back following a hip injury, Jameer Nelson is on the doorstep of some different kind of history tonight.
With his next assist, Nelson will tie Scott Skiles for the franchise record in assists with 2,776. Skiles set the team record when he played 384 games from 1989 through 1994. He averaged 7.2 assists a game over his Magic career.
Nelson, the longest-tenured Magic player, is in his ninth NBA season. He entered Saturday’s game needing nine assists to tie Skiles, but instead trained much of his focus on scoring and finished with eight assists to set the stage for tonight.
``I’m not a guy for individual accolades, but it would definitely mean a lot,’’ Nelson said. ``I don’t know, records are made to be broken. I’m very fortunate to be in a position to break a record in any category. But I’m just more looking forward to playing a game and trying to get a win.’’
Nelson and the Magic (12-21) will be facing the surprising Portland Trail Blazers (18-15) at 10 p.m. ET. The Magic are riding an eight-game losing streak and are desperate to begin their four-game, nine-day roadtrip with a win that will end the longest skid since the 2005-06 season.
Nelson has averaged 5.0 assists a game over his 551-game career with the Magic. He is averaging a career-best 6.8 assists this year, while also averaging 14.5 points per game – his most in four seasons when he was an all-star in 2009.
Nelson matched a career-high by scoring 32 points on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls. He followed that up with 29 points and the eight assists against the New York Knicks on Saturday night. Nelson tied a career-best by making six 3-pointers on Wednesday and he fired in another five on Saturday night. He’s made 11 of his last 16 tries from 3-point range.
Nelson said the opportunity to become the franchise’s all-time leader is a testament to his longevity and his effectiveness while mixing scoring and playmaking.
``I guess it’s a tribute to my hard work, and also to the organization to have faith in me to keep me here as a player,’’ Nelson said.
Nelson said the fact that he’s played his entire professional career with the Magic is a source of tremendous pride for him. Nelson was a n unrestricted free agent for the first time last summer, but resigned with the Magic just days into the free-agent courting period.
``It means a lot. Nobody knows what the future holds for myself or the organization, but I love playing in Orlando,’’ he said.
Nelson will have his work cut out for him tonight in Portland. He will be facing cat-quick point guard Damien Lillard, a leading candidate for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award so far. Lillard, the sixth overall pick out of tiny Weber State, is second on Portland in scoring with 18.2 points a night, while also averaging 6.4 assists a game.
Nelson has made a career out of getting the best of bigger and quicker point guards. Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn and teammates marvel at the way Nelson – who is maybe 5-foot-10 – thrives at his size.
``I’ve been a small guard all my life and I’ve adapted playing against bigger guys no matter who it is,’’ Nelson said. ``If I was bigger and taller maybe I wouldn’t be me. So I look at my size as a positive. It doesn’t discourage me to be the size that I am. I guess it’s just the size of my competitive nature and the size of my heart playing against (bigger players).’’
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