I've been on the "trade Jameer Nelson" wagon for the Magic since they re-signed him to that ridiculous contract last season. (Nelson signed a three-year deal in 2012 that still has $16 million left on it; $10 million is guaranteed.) It's not at all that Nelson's a bad player or a cancer. He's a good teammate and a quality player. But the Magic are looking forward, in a total rebuild. They are set to be awful again this season as they collect young players and try and build a new core. Nelson, at age 31, won't be a part of that core when it reaches maturation. Having him around only means that a veteran who can help a playoff team is stuck on a team purposefully going nowhere.
And despite the positive things constantly said about Nelson by Magic ownership and management, Nelson said this week that he accepts he may not be in Orlando for the duration of the season.
Nelson finds himself in a precarious situation — and not just because of Oladipo's presence. Nelson is in the second season of a three-year contract that is guaranteed for only $2 million in 2014-15. That low amount, combined with his playoff experience and his skill on offense, should make him a popular player for other teams as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Feb. 20.
"I'm just here right now," Nelson said. "That's my goal: to be here as long as I can. Like I said in past years, I love it here and I definitely would like to stay. I understand things happen and it's a business. Right now, I'm here and my job is to help lead and to help get these guys where we need them to be as a team and as an organization."
Nelson is acting as a mentor to first-round pick Victor Oladipo and getting himself in the best shape he can. In truth, the Magic may have to wing up moving him because he's so good, he could hurt their quest to land in the top three of next year's super-draft.
He's doing everything he should be doing. Hopefully, it'll work out so that he gets a chance to contribute to a contending team as a talented back up point guard. If not, the countdown will have to start on a buyout. Eventually, the Magic are going to have to let go of sentimentality and accept that Nelson's not a part of their future.