August 25, 2008
I’ve never been much of a Jameer Nelson fan. The 6-0 starting point guard for the Orlando Magic is too erratic, too injury-prone, and entirely unspectacular as a floor general for my tastes. There’s very little range on that jumper of his, he doesn’t play especially good man defense, and he’s hardly an excellent passer.
I could go on, but what it all comes down to is that I just don’t feel like he’s a reliable enough starter for a team entertaining championship hopes to hang their hat on. The Magic obviously feel differently, however, having just awarded him with a five-year, $35 million contract extension last year that doesn’t begin until the upcoming season. Until further notice, Nelson is the man they’re rolling with at the point during the prime of Rashard Lewis’ and Hedo Turkoglu’s careers and the still-formative years for Dwight Howard.
Jameer Nelson Photo Credit: Icon SMI
He may not impress me on the court, but Nelson has sure earned some respect off of it this summer. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Nelson has gathered his Magic teammates in Philly for a week this summer of what he calls “team building.” The team has absolutely no involvement in Nelson’s mini-camp of sorts—which includes seminars on properly managing the millions of dollars these ballers make—and the real kicker is that Nelson is footing the whole bill: (via FanHouse)
It’s the third annual so-called “Building Magic” week. Nelson’s goal, with no input from Magic management, is to build a better team. Eleven-year veteran Adonal Foyle said he had been having a great time. “In the league for a while, you get pretty cynical,” said Foyle, 33, who played one year at Cardinal O’Hara in the early 1990s. For Foyle, Building Magic is an antidote to that because the teammates get to know one another better and learn to work together.
Nelson foots the bill: Flying 10 teammates to town, putting them up at the Marriott in West Conshohocken, paying for training sessions at the Summit Sports Training Center in Villanova, lunch next door at Maia, and fancy Philadelphia restaurants, such as Fogo de Chao, Pod and Table 31, for dinner.
“I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t afford it,” said Nelson, a Chester native who is entering his fifth year in the NBA. At the same time, Nelson, who would not say how much he is spending this week, is well aware of the risk: “This is a gamble. Who says this is going the make the team better?”
NBA players are under more of a microscope than any athletes in any other major professional sport, and when they screw up it’s amplified ten times more than when, say, a football player beats and batters his girlfriend during the offseason. And even though this isn’t going to change my views of Nelson’s on-court game—it’ll take stats and wins for that to happen—it’s a great story and one that deserves some attention.
Nelson’s show of leadership like this is rare in any pro sport. Whether or not it actually amounts to anything remains to be seen, but either way it’s the thought that counts.