Denton: Nelson Still Playing at High Level

Jameer Nelson

By John Denton
March 30, 2014

ORLANDO – Jameer Nelson is in his 10th NBA season – all with the Orlando Magic, of course – and he’s just a month removed from his 32nd birthday, but he’s still playing the point guard position at a high level against some of the biggest stars in the game.

Nelson came into Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors ranked eighth in the NBA in assists per game (6.9 apg.) and 11th in the league in assists per turnover (2.93 to 1). That’s pretty impressive when considering that the point guard position is arguably the deepest spot in the NBA what with stars Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Goran Dragic, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Mike Conley, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague and Deron Williams manning the position.

``We have a lot of talent on this team and I’m fortunate to play with guys who can put the ball in the hole. For me, I just feel like I can still play at a high level and do things on the court,’’ said nelson, who is also averaging 12.2 points and 3.4 rebounds a game. ``Your body lets you know certain things that you need to do to keep up and I’ve done those things during the offseason and during the season as well. I’ve tried to be consistent in the gym and my game will take care of itself.’’

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has great admiration for Nelson still being able to play the game at a high level. Vaughn played point guard in the NBA for 12 seasons before going into coaching and he likes how Nelson is using his basketball smarts to thrive at an ultra-competitive position.

``You continue to evolve your game and you continue to challenge yourself no matter what year you are in this league, and Jameer’s done that,’’ Vaughn said. ``You intrinsically get smarter and the game really slows down for you and you’re not doing it with physical aspects but the mental part of the game. As long as you keep that part fresh, you give yourself a chance.’’

USING HIS EXPERIENCE: Leaning on his experience as a former player, Vaughn decided to give the Magic all of Saturday and Sunday morning off following Friday’s 110-105 overtime defeat of the Charlotte Bobcats.

In that game, center Nikola Vucevic played 40 minutes, Arron Afflalo was one the floor almost 39 minutes, Tobias Harris played 36 minutes and Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless and Nelson all played at least 30 minutes.

Vaughn sensed late Friday night that getting rest was far more important than another practice and a Sunday morning shootaround. Instead, Vaughn allowed his players to get treatment on Saturday, sleep in Sunday morning and come into the team headquarters early on Sunday for a walk-through session.

Vaughn said his days as a player told him that rest would be the biggest factor going into Sunday’s game.

``That (experience) is something that I hope I never lose, that instinct of having been in a locker room and having that feeling,’’ Vaughn said. ``I don’t want to try and overcoach or bring guys in just for the sake of my job title. Guys needed some rest physically and mentally and hopefully guys can recharge.’’

IMPROVEMENT IN HABITS: With Friday’s win against Charlotte, the Magic eclipsed last season’s win total. While that’s still not saying a big deal considering that Orlando had the NBA’s worst record last season at 20-62, the victory increase this season is at least a step in the right direction.

Vaughn said not only does he not pay attention to the win total, he hasn’t once mentioned the record to the team. For Vaughn, this rebuilding season is more about building solid habits that will last. ``For me, it’s not about the rebounds, assists and that nature.

Vaughn said. ``It’s whether or not Victor (Oladipo) can realize that a blitz is coming in pick-and-roll and make the right decision; whether Maurice (Harkless) can get out into the passing lane, close out on a guy and run him off the 3-point line; and whether Nik (Vucevic) going four-for-14 and mentally pushing himself through a game. Those are the things that if we collectively do that, those are the habits that won’t leave you. They will be a part of us, and that’s what you want.’’