Morning Shootaround

Jameer Nelson steps up in pinch for New Orleans Pelicans staff reports

A veteran hand like Jameer Nelson can make all the difference for a team that needs him. He became expendable in Denver, but in New Orleans — where the Pelicans need every seasoned piece they can get around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins — Nelson could very well be a perfect fit.

* Recap: Pelicans 119, Lakers 112

Nelson showed as much in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers, helping the Pelicans save themselves from a potentially disastrous finish after they led by as many as 22 points. It was a clutch shot from Nelson that helped put the game away. It was a nice opening salvo from the recently acquired free agent with loads of high-level experience. Will Guillory of The Times-Picayune provides some details:

Going into the contest, it was unclear how much Nelson would play because he spent nearly 10 hours the previous day traveling cross-country to make it to Los Angeles.

But Nelson helped power an 11-0 run by New Orleans in the final minutes, which concluded with him drilling a 3-pointer with 1:26 left that effectively put the game away.

“I think he already earned his contract,” Gentry joked. “He’s a veteran, he’s a pro–he’s not afraid of the moment. … He made the biggest shot of the night.”

Once Nelson agreed to his deal with the Pelicans, he drove four hours from Philadelphia to New York so he could catch a six-hour flight to Los Angeles to join his new team in time for Sunday’s game.

The veteran didn’t want too much credit for finding a way to have an impact on the game after his long journey, but his play prevented New Orleans from dropping into an 0-3 hole that would have been tough for them to climb out of mentally.

“It is what it is. I won’t give myself a pat on the back for coming out and playing,” said Nelson, who finished with five points and five assists. “The main thing was just going out on the court and getting ready. It’s basketball, and it’s still basketball no matter where you’re playing it.

“I’ve been in pretty much every situation on the court, so when I was out there there was nothing that was going to startle me or scare me.”

Nelson took advantage of what the defense was giving him and got the ball moving once again for New Orleans, which allowed them to exploit the Lakers’ defensive efficiencies.

Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo was supposed to fill that role as the floor general when he joined the team during the offseason, but he suffered a core muscle injury that’s expected to sideline him at least a few more weeks.

Nelson’s immediate success with New Orleans showed how much they needed someone to fill that role and he may have a good chance of moving into the starting lineup until Rondo returns.

“Coming in off the fly, literally, that’s what veterans do,” said Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins. “They know how to play the game. I think he plays the game the right way. He came in and hit a huge, huge shot for us…I look forward to his impact for the remainder of the season.”

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