Sunday, July 1, 2012

O Captain! My Captain! Our Captain!

I doubt #14 would have an emotion-filled poem created for him if he departed this Orlando Magic franchise, but we’re coming at a crossroads with a cornerstone from last season’s disappointing campaign. Potentially losing Jameer Nelson, your lead by example fearless point guard, after 8 years of service and having Chris Duhon as your starter is flat out scary. Don’t worry, it won’t be the case for long, one way or another. However, it’s still terrifying to fathom the possibility. I believe Rob Hennigan when he says he’d love to have Jameer back. Jameer has been the anti-Dwight over these last 8 years. He very rarely used his onslaught of injury woes as an excuse for bad play. All Nelson wanted to do was play. That proved to bite us in the rear when a still recovering Jameer took away minutes from Rafer Alston in the 2009 NBA Finals. Nelson wasn't near the All-Star level PG he was just months before his surgery, and Derek Fisher made us pay. Aside from that unfortunate dilemma the coaching staff was plagued with, ‘Mighty Mite’ fully embodies the heart, work ethic, and overall good spirit that ‘Henny’ is seeking. Rob proved it with the selections of Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn on Thursday night. The Magic need a legitimate veteran locker room presence probably more than ever. Jameer would certainly be a solution to that problem at least.

Just because Jameer opted out of the final year of his contract, walking away from $8 million, does not necessarily mean he’s seeking greener pastures. Far from it. It’s all about longer term security now for a warrior who has constantly fought against the odds to become a successful NBA player. Not to be too blunt, Jameer is now a 30-year-old undersized PG who has passed his prime. His fragile nature at times won’t disappear as his body continues to recover slower and slower from bad knocks. A half hour of play per game is just too much on that 5'10" frame. Then there’s his concussion history that is alarming for any franchise in the league contemplating the attainment of Nelson’s services. But damn it, it’s difficult to just cut ties with one of the best point guards in franchise history. Throughout his 8 years in the City Beautiful, Jameer seems to always be disrespected. Always. It’s been ridiculous at times. The man can’t be celebrated for the journey he’s already had. Hennigan’s no ties to the team as of a few weeks ago makes heartbreaking decisions like this easier. Where as a guy like Otis Smith knew Nelson the day he was drafted from St. Joseph’s. It really will be more about the dollars and future schematics of what Rob has in mind, than the emotions of losing one of our longstanding veterans. 

It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s get Steve Nash because he’s the best available PG out there and he’ll help keep Dwight in Orlando.’ It doesn’t work like that. Not with the Raptors shelling out $12 million per season for their Canadian hero’s services. I’m hearing fans want guys like Devin Harris, Kirk Hinrich, Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, and Jose Calderon to name a few. Are those guys upgrades over Jameer? I don’t believe so. But I’m not the one making all of these crucial decisions. It would also help having a coach in place as free agency has begun. Let's look at it from Jameer's side. Would Nelson be better off a Laker, Bull, a Maverick, or Sixer? Probably. Mighty Mite has earned the right to grab one more solid contract and yet still be on a contender. We don't know what the Magic roster will look like tomorrow, let alone next season. See Earl Clark changing his mind and opting back in for $1.25 million after all. So we must ask Jameer to sacrifice himself once more to remain in Orlando. Whether it's playing time and/or money. It wouldn't be the first time.

If we do somehow manage to retain Jameer, hopefully it's for under $5 million per season. Also, I'd absolutely approve of Nelson coming off the bench if we get another guy (ex. Kyle Lowry) to start. Jameer can be utilized quite nicely as a 6th Man. His first 2 season in Orlando proved that. It's a great way of remaining fresh and healthy going into a postseason. Mighty Mite can go back to his score first mode that made him a college stud at St. Joe's. Plus, he won't have to worry as much about guarding taller opponents. It's wishful thinking. After all though, Jameer has on several occasions lost his job only to earn it back. See Steve FrancisCarlos Arroyo, and indeed, Rafer Alston. The man's feisty nature of always wanting to compete is what has Jameer continuing to grasp at one last stretch of starting in the NBA. This isn't a farewell posting as much as an appreciation and understanding of what this Orlando community could be losing. Mighty Mite has long fully embraced this second home. We know Jameer's preferences are to remain in a Magic uniform forever, but this is a business. Does Dwight play a role in all of this? Sure, but it's not as big a thought the last time Nelson had to negotiate a contract. His friendship with Superman appears to be permanently severed. Which is extremely sad. Two guys who came into the league together and progressed every year, building Orlando into the power it once was in the NBA. Now that empire of success has crumbled. New building blocks must be put in place.

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