Denton's Notebook: Monday, Jan. 7
By John Denton
January 7, 2013
PORTLAND, Ore. – In a season where he is averaging his most points in four seasons, Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson is also averaging a career-best in assists.
For years, Nelson – the longest-tenured Magic player – has been derided as a shoot-first, pass-second point guard. But clearly, Nelson, who is averaging 14.5 points and 6.8 assists a game, is doing both this season and doing them quite well.
Maybe, just maybe, now that he is the Magic’s all-time leader in assists, the point guard will be viewed as a capable player who both runs the offense and scores points in bunches. Nelson said he’s never looked at the ``shoot-first’’ label often attached to him as a negative.
``I’m still a scoring point guard, no matter how many assists I get,’’ said Nelson said. ``The thing about me is I just have to be aggressive and see the right play. I’m able to see the floor well to get assists, while also being a scoring guard.’’
Nelson became the Magic’s all-time leader in assists on Monday night, passing Scott Skiles and the previous record of 2,776. The record-setter came on a play where Nelson got into the lane and dished to rookie Andrew Nicholson for a dunk. Seconds earlier, Nelson dropped the ball off to Nikola Vucevic to tie the Magic record for assists.
Nelson headed into Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks needing nine assists to tie the record, but finished with just eight. That left him one assist shy of the Magic mark before Monday’s game in Portland.
ROOKIE EDUCATION: Talk about your rookie lessons. In a matter of six days last week, Magic rookie small forward DeQuan Jones started games with the defensive assignment of having to guard Miami’s LeBron James and New York’s Carmelo Anthony.
They are two of the leading candidates to win the NBA’s MVP award this season and they rank second (Anthony at 29.3 ppg.) and fourth (James at 26.5 ppg.) in the league in scoring.
Jones, who made the Magic roster in training camp as an undrafted rookie, said he was bombarded by text messages from friends and family last week asking him what it was like to guard two of the best players in the world. Jones did fairly well guarding those two players primarily in the first and third quarters, but James ended up with 36 points, while Anthony dropped 40 points on the Magic.
``A lot of people hit me with text messages and asked me, `Yo, what’s the experience like guarding those guys? Was LeBron like this? Was Carmelo like that?’’’ Jones said with a laugh. ``I just told them it was a great experience for me and I tried to learn from it. I used it as a measuring stick to see where I can get better. I just accepted the challenge and looked at it as a great opportunity.’’
Jones said that while Anthony and James are both great scorers, there are major differences between the two of them when guarding them.
``I think ‘Melo is a better scorer, because he’s a pure scorer,’’ Jones said. ``But LeBron has that court vision and he just has a better overall feel for the game. He understands how to get his teammates the ball. They can both score at will, but I just think LeBron is better because of that court vision.’’
ETC: Magic reserve point guard E’Twaun Moore made the road trip with the team and hopes to play either Saturday in Los Angeles or Monday in Washington if his sprained left elbow continues to improve. It was in Washington last week that Moore’s arm was pinned to the floor during a scrum for the ball, injuring the elbow. He shot free throws on Monday morning with a brace on his left arm. Said Moore: ``I’m definitely making progress and getting better. The brace is fine, but I just have to keep healing and hopefully I’ll be on the court soon. I think there’s a chance (of playing) on this trip. That’s why I came – I want to get a chance to play.’’ … Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (sprained shoulder) and Gustavo Ayon (thigh contusion) aren’t on the trip, but could possibly rejoin the team. Davis has been working hard of late to strengthen his shoulder and is thought to be close to being back to game ready. Ayon could be at least a week away because of swelling and soreness in his mid-leg. … Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has been impressed with his team’s ability to respond to adversity all season – whether it was tough losses or debilitating injuries. Said Vaughn: ``(The resiliency) is a direct correlation to the character of the guys in the locker room. I don’t think at all have we not wanted to win every single game. When you don’t win them, your resolve gets tested and it’s about how you answer that. I really believe this trip is going to be good for us mentally, getting away and seeing how we fare on the road when everything is stacked against you. So I’m excited to see how we respond.’’ … The Magic are in Denver on Wednesday night to face the Nuggets. Orlando whipped Denver 102-89 in the season-opener in the Amway Center.
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