In our “What’s Next” series, Senior Staff Writer Zach Oliver will take a look at the Magic’s players individually, and what their future with the team may be or what the next step is for them in their development. The Magic’s longest tenured player, Jameer Nelson, is up first.
Jameer Nelson, who has been with the Magic since his career began in 2004, has one year left on his contract. However, that year is only partially guaranteed, with the team owing him only $2 million of a total $8 million if they are to release him on or before July 15th.
With the team currently rebuilding, and Nelson certainly not getting any younger, many feel as though the decision should be an easy one to let Nelson go. Yet the point guard is holding out hope of another year in Florida. Nelson has said that he wants to stay in Orlando, not only because of his love for the city, but also the fact that his family loves living here.
During the team’s recent exit interviews, Nelson had this to say when asked if he had conversations with the organization about his future, “I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t, I did, but I’m not going to disclose that with you guys. I’ll keep that internal as I’ve always done in the past. Like I said before, it’s the team’s option. I would love to continue to play here, continue to be here and see this thing turn around. You know, just keep my fingers crossed.”
Nelson, who averaged 12.1 points, 7.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game, feels as though he still has many good years ahead of him, telling reporters this, “I don’t know why everybody thinks 32 is old. To me I feel like I have a lot of good years left. Like I said, hopefully that’s here, if not, it’ll be somewhere else. Not going to limit myself on how many years I’m gonna play; I want to continue to play as long as I can and as many years as I can.” If he hopes to continue to play at a high level, he’ll need to stay healthy, something that he’s struggled with throughout his career.
At this point, it’s unclear what the Magic will do with Nelson. The last two seasons have been trying for the St. Joe’s product, but he’s stayed true to his professional manner, stepping up and being a leader for the young Magic team. That became even more evident when rookie guard Victor Oladipo told reporters that there “wasn’t anything he couldn’t learn from Nelson.”
If Nelson does end up staying in Orlando, he will undoubtedly stay a fan favorite. As he walked to mid-court to address the crowd prior to the team’s season finale, he had fans telling him “you have to stay here!” and “don’t leave!”
For Nelson to stay however, he may have to be open to relinquishing the starting point guard role for one of the Magic’s younger players, whether that be Oladipo or a player the team selects in the coming draft. In that scenario, Nelson would be coming off the bench primarily for the first time since 2004-05 and 2005-06, when he backed up Steve Francis.
If Nelson were to be released, it would allow him to chase that elusive championship ring as a backup point guard for a team with title aspirations. However, the organization could choose to keep Nelson and try to move him around the trade deadline, where he could be a big asset in any trade.
While his future is murky, one thing is for sure with Nelson: wherever he’s playing next season, he’ll be ready and he’ll function as a consummate pro to help that organization win as many games as possible.