Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
So far, Jameer Nelson has been having a good year for the Orlando Magic.
Fully healthy and springboarding off a strong performance in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Nelson is back to playing like an All-Star point guard during the regular season. A big reason that the Magic rank fourth in the NBA in efficiency differential (+8.0) and second in point differential (+7.9) is because of Nelson’s stellar production offensively. It may surprise people, however, that Nelson is doing more to help Orlando on offense with his passing than at any other point in his career.
Is this trend sustainable?
It remains to be seen. But let’s go back in time and offer a refresher course on how Nelson emerged as one of the better point guards in the league for the Magic.
How about January 16, 2009 against the Los Angeles Lakers?
There are many Magic fans that remember that date vividly because it marked not only the “official” arrival of Orlando as an elite team and championship contender, but it was Nelson’s coming out party as a clutch performer and emergence as an All-Star caliber player in front of a nationally televised audience. Yes, Nelson had big games against the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and other good teams earlier in that year but this was the Lakers. At Staples Center. In primetime.
It was something more than just a regular season game for the Magic.
And for Nelson, it was his christening.
For the evening, Nelson had 28 points and eight assists while all of his damage came in the fourth quarter when the game was going back-and-forth between Orlando and Los Angeles in a matchup of two heavyweights.
The traits that people have been accustomed to seeing from Nelson — deadly shooter, drive-and-kick extraordinaire, pick and roll maven — these past few years were on full display against the Lakers in the period. It was an iconic sequence of events for Nelson because not only did it reveal his growth in head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s system but also unearthed his potential to be an impact player for the Magic when the stakes were high.
Nelson displayed flashes of brilliance in the 2008 NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons, but everything came together that night.