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News » Magic's Nelson looks to regain All-Star form

Magic's Nelson looks to regain All-Star form

Magic's Nelson looks to regain All-Star formORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - There was hardly a place Jameer Nelson went this summer where somebody didn't ask him about the NBA finals, always getting the same question about a mostly forgettable experience.

"What happened?"

It was an offseason filled with being second-guessed by fans, some even pointing the finger at the Orlando Magic's All-Star point guard for the team's finals flop against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"The things people have said about me in my career, a lot of people would have crumbled." Nelson said Monday, on the eve of another Magic training camp that begins with questions at point guard. "Not me."

The Magic have some concern at point guard given the way last season unfolded.

Nelson, who said he's completely healthy again, tore the labrum in his right shoulder in early February and had what was then-called season-ending surgery. He surprisingly returned in the finals, and his struggles - and Orlando's - prompted starter Rafer Alston to question the decision to bring Nelson back.

The team was eliminated in five games, and it's been an offseason full of frustration on the franchise since.

"I don't blame Jameer for losing the finals," Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "As an organization, I think we lost focus. We celebrated after winning the Eastern Conference championship like that was it, and we just lost focus."

Regaining that swagger is perhaps the toughest test in training camp for Nelson.

He spent much of his free time this summer back home in the Philadelphia area, where he is still remembered fondly for leading St. Joseph's to an undefeated regular season in 2004. He held his annual players "retreat" there, hosting his teammates at home, doing everything from going to a Phillies game to playing video games - just to try to bond.

But getting back to his All-Star form on the court won't be easy.

Nelson admits that he wasn't anywhere close to 100 percent healthy in the finals, but he still maintains he would do it over again if could. His only regret is not starting rehab sooner.

"I think if anybody ever gets hurt in the world, they should never check out for the season," Nelson said. "I think if I had prepared myself to come back early on, I would have been a lot better."

In his fifth season with the Magic, he averaged a career-best 16.7 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range.

He'll have some help at point guard this season, with the Magic signing free agent Jason Williams and holding on to Anthony Johnson as another backup. And by trading Alston to New Jersey, the Magic made sure that Nelson knew he was the go-to point guard.

The Magic don't believe Nelson will have any finals hangover.

"When Jameer is confident, being aggressive and attacking he's a very, very good point guard," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The only problems I ever see with him is when his energy level dips a little bit he's not as aggressive and he can fall into mediocrity. That's the challenge."

In many ways, this training camp is like so many others for Nelson.

It wasn't until the first half of last season that he established himself as the starting point guard for the Magic. So trying to win people over is nothing new.

Only now he'll have to do it with some new pieces, with the Magic most notably acquiring Vince Carter from New Jersey and parting ways with Hedo Turkoglu. Regaining that trust at point guard, though, is a challenge Nelson said he has been looking forward to all summer.

"I'm confident knowing I'm the player I was before the All-Star break," Nelson said. "I'm an All-Star-caliber player. I think one thing we have to understand is you get injured, but you can come back. I will."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 29, 2009


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