Eight points, Five assists, Two (and a half) caroms. 30 (THIRTY) minutes a game. Chris Duhon career best averages you say? Sadly, no. These numbers do not even begin to portray the poor (destitute comes to mind) play of our beloved point guard Jameer Nelson. How and Where did it all go wrong, one cares to ask?
Well, this off season as you may be aware (unless you were living under a rock or didn't care for Orlando Magic news, in which case, why are you here?) Dwight Howard made shock waves throughout the Magic Kingdom and beyond, demanding a trade to greener pastures, larger bodies of water, and [insert euphemism for larger metropolitan markets and bigger endorsement dollars here]. Speculation abounded of Dwight's wishes to tandem with one of the League's elite point guards (i.e. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, anyone NOT Jameer Nelson), effectively throwing former best buddy and Current point guard Jameer under the proverbial bus (and reversed, and drove back over again) in the process. Jameer, while known for his tough play and clutch shooting, turns out was still very human and susceptible to weird things like emotions, and was more than likely deeply wounded by Dwight's remarks, and by the ensuing (and continuing) trade fiasco.
So What, you might ask? Jameer Nelson is a professional basketball player, paid to play the school yard game he grew up loving. This year he is set to make $7.31 Million dollars (even the .31 part is more then I'd dream to make this year), so you might say to your self, Self, if I was Jameer and making (and probably rolling around and sleeping on) this amount of aforementioned money, wouldn't I just suck that ish up and go All Out every night on the court? And in most cases, you would be very right. Unfortunately, this is a flawed assumption, based out of a vacuum universe in which others' actions don't affect our own. The reality is, professional sports is just as much about Confidence as it is Ability, and Orlando's co-captain has clearly found himself in a rut.
So what has changed in Jameer's game, you might ask? An excellent question, I'm glad you asked. The answer is, frankly, Everything. Some might point to his shooting (down from his nearly 17ppg output on Orlando's march to the Finals in '08) and accompanying percentages ('08->'11 contrast... FT: 89 to 76%; 3PT: 45 to 29% FG: 50 to 39%). Defense, while in some ways unquantifiable, is still identifiable by the naked eye as consistent energy and commitment (and moving of feet) to keeping your man in front of you, and at least funneling him towards the best defensive big man of our generation. This year, Jameer might have put many Spanish matadors to shame with his propensity of letting opposing 1's drift right by into the lane for scoring opportunities.
What has been Missing in Jameer's game most significantly this year though, and what will never show up in the box scores, is his sense of Fearlessness. This fearlessness materialized to the Magic's benefit in past seasons with his clutch shooting on MANY, MANY occasions, including the playoffs (does anybody else remember '10 Jameer icing Charlotte all series long like they said something about his momma?). This fearlessness showed in Jameer's willingness in previous seasons to give up his body, whether it be charges, fighting through pick and rolls, or diving into the lane amongst the trees to create buckets. None of that has been consistent this year, and that is what made Jameer a Game Changer for the Magic. Heck, even his rebounds (down from '08 3.5 rpg) and fouls ( down from '08's total of almost 3 fouls to 2 this year) are testaments to his lack of aggressiveness, where he once regularly snuck in to pull down a board to spark a Magic fastbreak or got an extra whistle blown for tighter D and feisty hands. This fearlessness allowed Jameer to make PLAYS, unafraid to make mistakes and letting the game come to him.
This year you don't even see Nelson hooking up with Dwight for alleys, which used to be a Given at least once or twice a game, and it makes you wonder if it's out of spite or lack of connection. Whatever it is, I wish Jameer would just sit down, clear his mind, watch old game tape, whatever is needed, and remember why he is the Orlando Magic's starting point guard and fan favorite, before it's frankly too late.