Jameer Nelson spoke to the media after practice in Orlando on Monday.
Jameer Nelson spoke to the media after practice in Orlando on Monday.
Peter Stringer/Boston Celtics

Nelson Embracing Leadership Role with C's

ORLANDO – Jameer Nelson is new to the Celtics, but leadership is old hat to the veteran point guard, so it’s not surprising that he’s already assuming some of those duties with his new team.

Nelson spent the first 10 years of his career with the Orlando Magic and grew into a leader of young men with his old team before signing with a veteran-laden Dallas Mavericks squad this offseason. But after last week’s trade, Nelson finds himself in familiar territory, as a grizzled veteran role model on a young team.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time. My job is to play,” said Nelson of the sudden trade. “I’ll give everything I have for my guys in this locker room. I’ll try to help the coaches out once I get comfortable.”

Despite not knowing him until his arrival, Coach Brad Stevens is already impressed with Nelson’s presence around the team.

“I’ve known him for two-and-a-half days. Jameer’s a pro,” Stevens said. “When I came in the locker room at halftime yesterday, he was one of the guys talking. He has a great way about him. The people who have been around him love him. Certainly this city feels that way about him.”

While outsiders questioned how Nelson would feel about the trade to Boston, going from a contender to a rebuilder, he’s repeatedly made it clear that he’s happy with his situation.

“You look at the situation, people are calling me, asking me if I’m OK. I’m OK,” Nelson said. “I’m playing basketball for a living, something I love to do. I’m blessed to be a part of this team.”

It just so happens the Celtics are in Orlando for Tuesday’s game, which will mark Nelson’s first regular season contest as an opponent in the Amway Center. Nelson did play a preseason game here with the Mavericks earlier this year, and was received warmly with a nice ovation and jumbotron tribute video, but he said he just “froze” when it came on.

Rather than bask in the glow of a welcome home, Nelson was trying to pay attention to his coach. Talk, they say, is cheap. Nelson seems focused on setting the right example for his teams instead.

“I tried to plant seeds,” Nelson said of his time with the Magic. “Especially with the young guys, they really respected me, looked up to me for everything, for the weirdest things. It was good to be around those guys to be able to do that. When I’m around veterans as well, I’m doing the same thing and not always realizing it.”

Vets pay attention when Nelson speaks. Just ask them.

“He didn’t necessarily talk that much,” said Brandon Bass, who also played with Nelson in Orlando. “But when he did say something, everybody would listen.”

His teammates were listening at the conclusion of Monday’s practice. They were pestering him to wrap up his media session, and at first it was unclear why. But as soon as he was finished, he led a pack of players out of the arena in search of some good ice cream in his old stomping grounds.

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