Many Orlando Magic players and fans have been hurt by D12’s request to leave town, but no one has been effected as much as the player that has been with him since they both came into the league.
It’s an inevitable truth: Dwight Howard will not be with the Orlando Magic by the time the 2012-2013 NBA season begins. There have been too many public quotes and signals from Howard (or one of his representatives) for anyone to believe otherwise.
Even though this drama constantly surrounds the team and all the players surely don’t enjoy their team captain wanting to play elsewhere, Jameer Nelson has to be taking Howard’s request the hardest, and his play so far is proving this assumption to be correct.
Jameer Nelson has a career average of 12.3 points, 45.6 percent field-goal percentage and 38.6 three-point field goal percentage. In 2008-2009, he took his game to another level, averaging 16.7 points, made over half of his shots, became an NBA All-Star and took his Magic team to the NBA Finals. His previous two seasons have been just as productive as this All-Star season.
What about this year? It can easily be considered his least efficient season and possibly worse than his rookie year. He is averaging only 9.2 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from behind the line.
So why is Jameer Nelson the one Magic player being effected so greatly by Howard’s drama-filled season?
On January 20 in the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith gave the answer to why Nelson has been struggling.
“You spend time [in the media] talking about Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but what position do they play?” Smith said. “It’s the same position that [Nelson] plays. So, it’s not necessarily that [Howard] is directly throwing him under the bus. But he’s indirectly throwing him under the bus.”
Dwight Howard will always be remembered for being the top pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, but Jameer Nelson came out of Saint Joseph’s that same year as the Magic’s 20th pick. They have been together in Orlando the past seven seasons – the exact same amount of time Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have been together in Dallas. Those two have grown to greatly respect one another because of their time together.
Whether two player’s attitudes or gameplay go well together, if they remain on the same team for an extended period of time and are the only players left from the first time they arrived, a bond will be created. It’s unavoidable.
After all this time with Nelson being his point guard, Howard now has statements that keep popping up regarding other “elite” point guards he wants to play with. Even though Nelson doesn’t play the conventional point guard role and has never averaged more than 6 assists per game, it has to hurt Nelson to be deemed simply not good enough to play with the big man anymore. That is the message Dwight Howard has indirectly sent to Jameer Nelson through his actions.
Aside from the sports aspect of this awkward time, Nelson has undoubtedly taken this whole situation personally. Smith bolsters this belief.
“They’re the best of friends,” Smith said. “They get along. They’ve had their talks about this whole thing. But the human side of it? It still bothers him a little bit.”
Even though the NBA is officially a business, it can’t be forgotten these are human beings and not just pieces to move around in order to get wins. Dwight Howard doesn’t want to play with his long-time teammate any longer and that has to take a toll on the 30-year-old young man. Even though I understand where Dwight Howard is coming from with the lure of playing in the same jersey as some of the greatest point guards in the league, the blatant disregard he has shown towards his 7-year teammate seems to be disrespectful to Nelson as a teammate and as a friend.
Nelson can look forward to the fact that all of this drama will soon enough come to an end. Shaq left Los Angeles. ‘Melo left Denver. Paul left New Orleans. Howard will eventually leave Orlando and the Magic’s point guard can get on with his career.
Even if Nelson stastically bounces back from this season, he may never be able to forget that one of the most athletic big men to ever play the game decided he, as a point guard, didn’t have what it takes to be Superman’s sidekick.
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