State of the Magic: Jameer Nelson keeps chugging along
FEB 17, 2014 11:00a ET
Having celebrated his 32nd birthday a week ago, Nelson has a long way to go before reaching the century mark, even if he might be classified as borderline ancient by NBA point guard standards.
While he has never possessed the sort of speed frequently found in players at his position, Nelson continues to chug along. He is averaging a shade less than 33 minutes a game thus far this season despite often giving way of late in the fourth quarter to rookie Victor Oladipo. That average is the second-highest in the 10-year career of the Magic's all-time leader in assists.
Perhaps just as importantly, he has missed only five of their 54 games -- two earlier this month with a sore left knee, and three beginning in late November with a sprained left foot. That increased durability is due in part to a change Nelson made in his offseason workout regimen where his trainers told him to emphasize cardiovascular activity more and the lifting of weights less.
"Nobody wants to run on a treadmill for a long period of time. It's tough," he said. "Only runners want to do that, people who really love to run. I like to run, and I'll do the work. But it's just one of those things you know you have to do."
Since his two-game absence after soreness in his knee forced him to sit out the final three quarters Jan. 31 of a Magic victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, Nelson has yet to play as many as 30 minutes in any contest. Coach Jacque Vaughn did not cite a specific reason for the cutback, although the decision to go with Oladipo or Nelson running the offense isn't a cut-and-dried case of choosing one or the other. Both players were on the floor for the final four minutes Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, and it was Nelson's layup with 1:59 remaining that gave the Magic their final lead at 79-78.
Nelson's name has not surfaced in any stories about playoff-bound teams that might be looking to upgrade at point guard before the trade deadline Thursday. With the Magic playing at Milwaukee and Cleveland coming out of the All-Star break, there could be a chance that Nelson has played his final home game in Orlando.
"I haven't had any discussions about being here or not being here," he said.
Earlier this season, Nelson moved past Dwight Howard into second place behind Nick Anderson on the Magic's all-time list for games played. With 7,999 points for his career, he needs only 21 more to move ahead of Shaquille O'Neal into fourth place behind Howard, Anderson and Tracy McGrady.
Since Oladipo started coming off the bench Feb. 5 against Detroit, the Magic's reserves have outscored those of their opponents four games in a row. Even with Oladipo going scoreless in the second half of the 86-81 loss to the Grizzlies, the Magic finished with a 25-19 edge over in that category, thanks in large part to four baskets in 14 minutes from E'Twaun Moore.
The Magic have turned the ball over 15 times or fewer in eight consecutive games to lower their average to 14.9 turnovers a contest, good for 15th among 30 teams. Their seven turnovers Jan. 29 at Toronto tied a season low set Dec. 8 at Houston.
Arron Afflalo falls under this description for the first time. In the past four games, he has gone a combined 14 of 45 from the floor. An 82 percent free-throw shooter, he even missed his only two attempts against Indiana.
Since starting the first 10 games of the season at power forward, Jason Maxiell has played in only 21 of 44 games and is averaging 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds with a total of 19 blocked shots. He had a career-high 95 blocks a year ago in the last of his eight seasons with the Pistons.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"It's nothing I've ever thought about. Now that it's approaching, management hasn't approached me with anything in particular. So as far as I'm concerned, it's just assessing my game within the situation here in the first half of the season month by month and then see what I need to do to get to a higher level." -- Afflalo on his mental approach with the NBA's trade deadline looming. Although he has been traded twice during his career, both of those moves took place during the offseason, including when he came to the Magic from the Denver Nuggets.
"They played more confident at home. There's no question about it. Victor's growing as a basketball player. He was the one leading the charge for the second unit." -- Pacers coach Frank Vogel, after the Magic scored as many points in the fourth quarter (29) as they did in the entire second half less than a week earlier against his team. Oladipo had 13 points over the final 12 minutes and helped limit the Pacers to 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
"We don't talk about that first year too often. But we share a bond from that first season that was pretty special." -- Sam Vincent, who was a guard for the Magic in their expansion season of 1989-90 that ended with them losing 24 of their last 26 games. Vincent has not gone back into coaching since being fired in 2008 after one season with the Charlotte Bobcats.
47: According to STATS Inc., until the Magic defeated Oklahoma City and Indiana, it had been 47 years since an NBA team that was at least 20 games under .500 defeated the teams with the two best records in back-to-back games. The Baltimore Bullets pulled that off in 1967 against the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.
6: The Magic have six players averaging at least 12 points a game -- Afflalo (19.4), Oladipo (13.9), Tobias Harris (13.7), Nikola Vucevic (13.3), Nelson (13.0) and Glen Davis (12.6). The last team to finish a season with that many was the 1990-91 Houston Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe, Vernon Maxwell, Buck Johnson and Sleepy Floyd.
3: Afflalo has been held to fewer than 10 points only three times in 50 games this season. The Pacers accomplished that twice, including a seven-point outing in 34 minutes against them last week where he went 3 of 10 from the floor in 34 minutes. The only other time came when he had six points in 39 minutes Jan. 22 in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
THIS DAY IN MAGIC HISTORY
Feb. 17, 1997: In what turned out to be Brian Hill's final game in his first go-round as Magic coach, the Charlotte Hornets handed them a 124-110 loss behind 40 points from Glen Rice. Hill was replaced the following day by assistant coach Richie Adubato, now a color analyst on the Magic's radio broadcasts. The Magic brought back Hill in May 2005. Hill's 267 career victories with the Magic are the most in franchise history, followed closely by Stan Van Gundy with 259.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Once O'Quinn reaches 500 likes on Facebook, he plans to hold a random drawing for some signed gear.