With few complementary backcourt scorers, Jameer Nelson will need to shoulder more of the offensive burden.
The Magic made at least five three-pointers in all 82 games last year; extending the longest streak in league history to 83. The previous record was 58 games, by the Pacers during the '07-08 season.
Record: 54-28 (4th in West) Points scored: 104.5 (6th in NBA) Points allowed: 99.0 (11th)
The smallest man on the team needs to make a bigger impact for his club to go further
For the Magic to improve on last year's success, when it won thedivision title and advanced to the conference semifinals, no player is morepivotal than 6-foot Jameer Nelson. The departure of free-agent guards CarlosArroyo, Keyon Dooling and Maurice Evans means that Nelson will have to bear evenmore responsibility in the backcourt. To that end, he spent the off-seasondeveloping his weak hand and dedicated himself to fulfilling coach Stan VanGundy's team-wide mandate for more physical play at both ends. "He's capable ofbeing an outstanding player," says Van Gundy. "A lot of it is justconsistency and coming with a high energy level every night."
Nelson will have some help in the energy department: Orlando signed formerWarriors swingman Mickaël Piétrus, whose athleticism and determined defense makeup for a streaky shot. For scoring the Magic will continue to rely on afrontcourt that features the electric inside play of Dwight Howard, theperimeter precision of Rashard Lewis and the clutch shooting of Hedo Turkoglu.Though Nelson has proved to be a capable facilitator -- he had the bestassist-to-turnover ratio (2.7 to 1) of his four-year career in 2007-08 -- he willhave to assert himself more if his team is to reach its first Finals in 15years.
When asked about his willingness to carry a greater load, Nelson merelypoints to the tattoo that stretches across his back in big block letters: ALLEYES ON ME. "My team hasconfidence in me," he says. "I wouldn't be in this position if they didn't." -- AndrewLawrence
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