October 21, 2009
SI's 2009-10 NBA Scouting Reports
Orlando Magic
Projected Finish: 3rd in Eastern Conference
Jameer Nelson points the way for the team's many newcomers.
John W. McDonough/SI
Fast Fact
Last Season

This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated

If the five newcomers to the Magic's rotation jell with the returningveterans sooner than expected this season, credit Jameer Nelson. In August thepoint guard once again paid for a bonding retreat in his hometown ofPhiladelphia, where for a week he was joined by teammates old and new for gamesof hoops, bowling and paintball. Says Nelson of the paintball, "The funniest was[free-agent signee] Brandon Bass -- he was actually crawling in the mud and takingpeople out."

It will take more than games, though, for Orlando to pick up where it leftoff last year. Gone are forward Hedo Turkoglu (who signed with the Raptors as afree agent) and two other starters from the Finals (guards Courtney Lee andRafer Alston, both dealt to the Nets in the Vince Carter trade). Then there'sNelson himself, who needs to get back in the flow after missing the second halfof last season and most of the playoffs with a torn labrum in his rightshoulder. Nelson bravely chose to return and come off the bench when the Magicmade it to the Finals against the Lakers, but his shooting stroke was hopelesslyrusty. While coach Stan Van Gundy was criticized for playing Nelson, who shot34.8% (8 of 23) in the five-game series, his teammates saw his coming back asanother act of leadership.

Orlando needs Nelson's shooting to return to its elite level -- last season heconnected on 50.3% of his attempts, including 45.3% from the three-point line -- tohelp space the floor for Dwight Howard in the paint and Carter on the perimeter.The Magic believe it has improved by importing Carter, Bass, and forwards MattBarnes and Ryan Anderson, but to make the expensive gambles pay off, Orlandowill need the best efforts of its 6-foot point guard. "My confidence is high,"says Nelson, 27. "I know at this point of my career who I am as a player and aperson, and the person you saw in the Finals wasn't 100 percent."

-- Ian Thomsen


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