Denton: Nelson, Magic Agree to Deal

By John Denton
July 5, 2012

ORLANDO – Jameer Nelson moved a step closer to his dream of playing for one organization his entire professional career on Thursday when he said that he agreed to a multi-year contract with the Orlando Magic.

Nelson, 30, rejoined the only team he’s ever played for in the NBA after spending four days as a free agent. The veteran point guard exercised an opt-out clause in his contract on Friday, officially became a free agent on Sunday and agreed to a deal on Thursday morning. He’ll sign his new contract with the Magic on July 11, the first day that NBA free agents are allowed to finalize contracts with teams.

``It’s great. This is the place that I wanted to be and to know that they wanted me back is a really great feeling,’’ Nelson said. ``I’m just glad we were able to come to an agreement. I’ve said it before and I mean it – I love the City of Orlando. The city has embraced me and watched me grow as a professional. And obviously, the DeVos family and the organization mean so much to my family, and they played the biggest role in me being back here.’’

Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan has said for the past two weeks that he values Nelson’s professionalism, leadership and abilities on the court and wanted him to remain in an Orlando jersey. Team officials can’t comment on verbal deals until contracts are finalized on July 11.

Nelson has served as the Magic’s co-captain with superstar center Dwight Howard each of the past three seasons. The Magic put great value in Nelson’s role as a leader and how he is looked up to by his younger teammates. Nelson said that conducting himself in a professional manner and leading teammates has always been a big part of his persona with the Magic.

``A lot of things get overlooked by people. But it really doesn’t matter to me what people outside the locker room judge about a player. To me, it matters most what people inside the locker room think,’’ Nelson said. ``As a professional and a leader, you have to do things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. I carry myself as a professional on and off the court. It shows that I carry myself the right way and I’m the man that my parents raised me to be. The hard work that they put in is showing.’’

Nelson averaged 11.9 points and 5.7 assists last season and 15.6 points and 6.6 assists in the playoffs. He had 27 points, five 3-pointers and five assists in the Magic’s Game 5 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs.

For his eight-year career – all with the Magic – Nelson has played 527 games and has averaged 12.4 points and 5.0 assists. He is a career 45.6 percent shooter from the floor and a 37.7 percent from 3-point range.

Nelson said the Magic remained in contact with him throughout the free-agent courting process. He said agreements by Deron Williams (Nets) and Steve Nash (Lakers) set the market for point guards and cleared him to re-sign with the Magic. Nelson’s hope is that he will spend his entire career with the Magic, and this new contract brings him closer to that possibility.

``I had a conversation with Rob and he expressed that he knew I had a decision to make, but that he wanted me back. From that conversation and me coming back now, I can tell that he’s a straight shooter,’’ Nelson said.

``This definitely gets me closer to my goal of staying with the Magic. I still feel that I have a lot of years left in me as a basketball player. I’m still trying to get better as a player and that’s what I’m working to do this summer.’’

Nelson said he’s talked repeatedly this summer with Howard, the Magic’s embattled superstar who has once again requested a trade. Nelson said that most of all he has tried to be supportive of Howard as a friend and not pester him with questions about his future.

``I’ve communicated with him quite a few times. He has decisions to make as well. I’ve tried to just be a friend to him and not talk so much about the other (trade) stuff,’’ Nelson said. ``I know everybody else in the world is talking about that. I hear it from people walking on the street wondering, `What’s Dwight going to do?’ Whatever he does I hope he’s happy and committed to it.’’

Like most Magic fans, Nelson is eager to find out who the next Magic coach will be. Regardless, he said he’ll be able to adapt to the new leader and the new system. Nelson said he’s also prepared to adapt to whether the Magic have a roster full of young players in rebuilding mode or one that still has Howard. None of it changes his role as the Magic’s leader on the floor and in the locker room.

``I look at my role as a leader regardless of the circumstance,’’ he said. ``I don’t see there being different levels of leadership. You either lead or you don’t. On and off the court, I’m a professional. I’m not a yeller or screamer, but I’ll pull a guy aside and try to help them in that way as much as I can. I just want to continue to be a great leader for this team.’’

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