Jameer Nelson Returns
After missing five straight games because of a concussion, Jameer Nelson returned to the Orlando Magic’s starting lineup Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Although he didn’t have his best night shooting the ball (5-of-13 from the field), Nelson looked in control of the offense, was aggressive and made several big shots during Orlando’s nine-point fourth quarter rally.
“I feel good,” Nelson told reporters following the game.
Despite Orlando’s overtime loss, Nelson finished with 15 points and 12 assists. After the game, Nelson said he didn’t feel any different than he normally does.
“I feel like I just played a basketball game,” Nelson said.
Nelson couldn’t participate in drills or game situations during his injury because of the NBA’s policy with concussions, but that didn’t stop him from keeping himself in game-shape.
“I tried to keep up with my conditioning as much as I could,” Nelson explained. “When I was sitting out and doing the things that I needed to do to keep myself ready, in terms of eating right, drinking lots of water and a lot of rest.”
Nelson has really come under scrutiny this season and for good reason – Orlando’s point guard is averaging a career-low 8.4 points per game and is shooting a career-low 38.7% from the field. For the Magic to remain a contender and be considered one of the league’s elite teams, they obviously need Nelson to be much better – he did that Monday.
“I just have to attack and make the right play,” Nelson told the collected media.
With Hedo Turkoglu really struggles, the ⅕ pick-and-roll with Nelson and Dwight Howard became Orlando’s go-to play in the fourth quarter and constantly running the play really paid off.
“If I do attack, whether it’s for me or somebody’s who’s open,” Nelson explained. “You can roll the guy over a little bit so I was trying to make the right play.”
Although Nelson’s shooting percentage (38.5) was again critiqued, for the most part he made the right plays for his team. When reporters questioned his shot selection, his coach came to his defense.
“Nobody likes any shot that doesn’t go in,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think Jameer’s shots were bad shots.”
“He (Chris Paul) was going under on the pick-and-rolls,” Van Gundy told reporters. “He went eight feet under the pick and went there – the answer is that’s a good shot.”
Nelson clearly has the confidence of his coach and it’s looks like he has the confidence of his teammates.
In fact, Nelson had the ball in his hands on Orlando’s final possession in regulation with a chance to win the game. Unfortunately for Nelson, his shot rimmed out.
“Coach knows I like the ball at end of the game for game-winning shots,” Nelson said following the game. “He put me in a good situation and I took the shot and missed.”
If another game comes down to the final possession, Van Gundy won’t hesitate to put the ball back in Nelson’s hands.
One of the more surprising things about Orlando’s 11-4 start to the season was the play of Hedo Turkoglu.
Not only is the team’s hot start a thing of the past (the Magic are now 15-10), but Turkoglu’s fast start is in the rear view mirror as well.
Turkoglu has shot over 50.0% from the field once in Orlando’s last 10 games. It’s no coincidence the Magic are just 4-6 in those 10 games.
His poor play culminated in his worst night of the season Monday. Turkoglu was 0-of-6 from the field and was held scoreless for the game. He played just 25 minutes and was not on the floor in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“When I first took him out I didn’t know I wasn’t going to put him back in,” Stan Van Gundy told reporters.
It wasn’t that Van Gundy simply forgot about Turkoglu – he had a reason for keeping him on the bench.
“He just wasn’t playing well,” Van Gundy explained. “I thought J.J., J-Rich and Q were all playing better than he was, with a lot more energy.”
“He was just sort of walking around out there,” Van Gundy added.
The Magic need Turkoglu to be a shot-creator for himself and his teammates and with the pressure opposing teams have put on Orlando’s point guard, they need him to be a ball-handler as well.
“Hedo’s in a bit of a funk,” Van Gundy told reporters.”
If Turkoglu doesn’t snap out of the funk soon, he’s going to continue to see his minutes dip.
Rest Helps J-Rich
After missing two straight games with a knee injury, Jason Richardson may be playing the best basketball since being traded to the Magic by the Phoenix Suns in December of 2010.
Over the last three games, Richardson is averaging 18.7 points per game and shooting 51.2% from the field.
Richardson’s aggressiveness and willingness to take his game into the post is getting him easy shots and helping him get better looks from the outside.
Richardson is shooting 47.4% from beyond the arc since his return.
News & Notes:
- Glen Davis returned from his two game suspension Monday. He scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds. Van Gundy praised his defense of Blake Griffin, calling it “outstanding.”
- The Magic will host the Miami Heat Wednesday night. The Heat have a three-and-a-half game lead over the Magic in the Southeast division. The Heat will host the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night.
- This will be the first of four meetings between the Magic and Heat. The Heat will host the Magic on February 18 and March 18 and will again be in Orlando on March 13.
- These two teams split the season series last year with each team winning once at home and once on the opponent’s court.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com  Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and onESPNFlorida.com . You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)