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Jameer Nelson Never Delivered a Spark

Jun 15, 2009 – 12:55 AM
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Tim Povtak

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Jameer NelsonORLANDO -- Jameer Nelson was headed into the locker room after the crushing, Game 5 defeat in the NBA Finals, not interested in watching the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate on his home court, not after he felt so helpless to stop them.

Yet teammate Dwight Howard pulled him back out, asked him to watch alongside him, so they could share the pain of defeat, so that maybe they could turn it into incentive this summer.

It's something he'll remember.

"It hurts. It's tough, but Dwight wanted me to be there with him to see it,'' he said. "I don't want this feeling again. Dwight wanted it to soak in. I wish I could have done more.''

Nelson may be remembered – maybe unfairly -- as the symbol of the Magic's failure in the Finals. What started as his finest NBA season – his first All-Star selection – ended with his most disappointing one.

After missing four months recovering from that right shoulder injury and surgery, he suddenly reappeared for the NBA Finals, a gamble by Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith that backfired.

Instead of providing the spark they had expected, he might have been an anchor that dragged them down. He didn't return to his starting role, but he returned to an undefined backup role, playing sporadically through five games. He took the role of Anthony Johnson and cut into the playing time of starter Rafer Alston.

He changed the backcourt rotation that had worked so well through the first three rounds of the playoffs. In a series with three very close games, he could have made the difference.

"I have some regrets, but I don't regret coming back,'' Nelson said. "If I didn't think I was ready, I wouldn't have tried.''

He averaged 18 minutes, 3.8 points and 2.8 assists in the Finals, a far cry from his regular season averages of 16.7 points, 5.4 assists in 31.2 minutes. In two victories against the Lakers during the regular season, he averaged 27 points.

Nelson played only 13 minutes Sunday night. He hit two of seven shots with four assists and one turnover. He didn't play with the confidence that made him an All-Star. He played like someone would expect for a guy who had missed four months of the season.

"The point guard situation is not what determined this series,'' said teammate Rashard Lewis. "This is not on Jameer. You get a chance to have an All-Star back, you welcome him with open arms.''

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