Denton: Nelson Comfortable in Clutch

By John Denton
Jan. 21, 2014

NEW YORK – Jameer Nelson, who is just the second player in franchise history to wear an Orlando Magic uniform for 10 seasons, relishes his role as a mentor and a playmaker for the Magic.

And Nelson also likes the designation of closer given to him by Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn. When the Magic absolutely had to have a basket at the end of regulation last Wednesday night against Chicago, Vaughn put the ball in Nelson’s hands and let the veteran point guard go to work out of a pick-and-roll set. Sure enough, the 6-foot Nelson launched a high-arching jump shot over 6-foot-11 center Joakim Noah that hit nothing but net to tie the game.

And on Sunday against the Boston Celtics, Nelson was again in the focus at the end of a close game. With the Magic and Celtics tied at 89 and just 35 seconds to play, the Magic gave the ball to Nelson, who got to the rim and was fouled. His two free throws put the Magic ahead and they ultimately won 93-91.

``I’ve taken a ton of shots at the end of games and at the end of quarters and you make some and you miss some,’’ said Nelson, who is averaging . ``Just knowing that (Vaughn) has the confidence in me to make the right play, whether it’s to pass the ball or shoot it, it tells me a lot about him and what he thinks about me.’’

KIDD ON OLADIPO: Few point guards in NBA history are more accomplished than Jason Kidd, who finished his playing career second in league history in both assists (12,091) and steals (2,684).

Kidd, now a first-year coach with the Brooklyn Nets, is looking on with curiosity as the Magic have taken Victor Oladipo – a shooting guard in college at Indiana University – and have experimented with him at point guard at the NBA level. Kidd, who had a similar 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame to Oladipo, played the majority of his career at point guard before switching to shooting guard as he was aging.

Kidd said that even though the transition from shooting guard to point guard is an extremely difficult one, he think Oladipo has the right skill set and mindset to pull it off.

``It is (a difficult transition), but these young kids today, they pick it up quickly,’’ Kidd said. ``And he has a veteran point guard there who can help him (in Nelson).

``He’s a talent, he’s very athletic and he has all the tools. It seems that he understands the game very well and he’s a good player,’’ Kidd added. ``He’s more dangerous now when he has the ball than when he’s the off guard because he makes all of the right plays in the pick-and-roll. The sky is the limit for him because you can see that athletic ability, ability to get to the basket and he can shoot it. He’s a talent.’’

CENTERS OF ATTENTION: With Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez out because of injuries, two converted power forwards – Orlando’s Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett made the switch to the center position.

The two played together for four seasons in Boston, and still remain close friends today. Davis credits Garnett for the mentor role that he played and credits him for much of the success that he’s had in the NBA.

``He showed me a lot and everything he did every day was a learning example for me,’’ Davis said. ``I have to give him a lot of credit because I learned a lot from him. He taught me to understand sacrifice. He was a guy who had 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) every night and he came to (the Celtics) and only scored 15-16 points a game and was giving himself up for the next guy defensively.’’

Davis said that he and Garnett still share text messages and phone calls from time to time, and Garnett advises him on being a leader for the Magic. He said he wasn’t worried about Garnett trying to intimidate him with trash-talk as he so often does to other big men.

``He’ll hit me out of a blue moon with a text, `How are you doing, man?’ and I’ll hit him, too,’’ Davis said. ``I don’t really chirp a lot. I know that he will chirp at me some, but it won’t be anything too crazy.’’