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News » Nelson, new-look backcourt give Orlando Magic hope


Nelson, new-look backcourt give Orlando Magic hope


Nelson, new-look backcourt give Orlando Magic hope
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The Orlando Magic think they have the best center in the NBA. After months of tinkering with the rest of the roster, they hope they've finally built a backcourt to make him even better.

The Magic brought in veteran free agents Mickael Pietrus and Anthony Johnson and drafted Courtney Lee, but believe the ultimate key to building a title contender around Dwight Howard is instilling more confidence in a player they already had.

Entering training camp, the club assured guard Jameer Nelson the starting job is his.

"In order for a player to show confidence, you have to show confidence in him," General Manager Otis Smith said.

Nelson's role may be as vital as Howard's. Along with forward Hedo Turkoglu, he'll be entrusted with making sure the young All-Star gets the ball.

Nelson was at times spectacular last season, and at times the third option at point guard behind Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling. But with a strong second half of the season, he made those two players expendable. Arroyo signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Dooling was dealt to New Jersey in a sign-and-trade.

Nelson says he's not taking Smith's assurance for granted. He showed up the morning before training camp started, and didn't stop until he made 100 shots.

"I'm always looking over my shoulder, always in attack mode," Nelson said. "If I thought I was 'the guy,' I wouldn't have been here this morning working on my game."

The Magic went 52-30 last season, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing in five games to the Detroit Pistons. But it was during the postseason that the 6-foot, 190-pounder solidified his role as the No. 1 point guard.

Nelson averaged 16.2 points and in the postseason, nearly seven above his regular season average.

"That has to give him confidence," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Now what we're looking for, and what he's looking for, is for him to be more consistent from start to finish. ... When Jameer is attacking, he is a very, very difficult guy to keep out of the paint."

Nelson made 48.4 percent of this 3-point shots and averaged 4.7 assists in 10 playoff games, continuing a trend of steady improvement from the second half of the season.

"If you check his numbers from the All-Star break on last year, there weren't many point guards in the league who played better," Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy thinks the new additions will also alleviate some of Nelson's pressure to create. Pietrus, signed away from Golden State, will battle Keith Bogans and Lee for time at shooting guard. Johnson, entering his 12th season, will likely back up Nelson, although Mike Wilks and Lee will also get a look.

"Jameer's been one of the leaders on the team since he's been here," said Howard, one of Nelson's closest friends on the team. "He's never been afraid of telling us when we do wrong. He's got all the qualities of a leader."


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 30, 2008

 

 
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