Orlando Magic fans have lost their patience with Jameer Nelson, it'd seem, in a baffling development. The Magic's seventh-year point guard and team co-captain is losing support from the fanbase after two subpar performances against the New Orleans Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder, road games Orlando lost by a combined four points.
I'll never understand, I don't think, why Orlando supporters expect more of Nelson, or why the fix for any of the team's problems, in some of their eyes, is to bench him. What's Nelson doing wrong, exactly? Because he's shooting 44.1 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range, and dishing a career-best 6.7 assists per game in an offense that doesn't generate a ton of assist chances. Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a former Magic coach who garners plenty of respect here and throughout the league, said Nelson has "the biggest heart on the team" and is "a warrior," for example.
And yet fans continue to press for Nelson to move to the bench, or to Basketball Siberia, despite the fact that he was the team's second-best player before the December 18th trades that shook up the roster. Calls for Gilbert Arenas, acquired in one of those trades, are especially confounding. He's shooting 37 percent himself, and 33.9 percent from deep. He's no longer the player who averaged 29.3 points and 6.1 assists in the 2005/06 season, and at this point, only bests Nelson in rebounding and shot-blocking.
I get that Nelson's short, doesn't excel at any particular skill except outside shooting, and isn't a perennial All-Star. But of the league's point guards, non-franchise-player division, he might be the best. Maybe you prefer Jose Calderon's low-mistake ways, or Devin Harris' slashing and quickness, or whatever it is Raymond Felton does that has people thinking he could win Most Improved Player this season, or Jason Kidd's expert passing; I wouldn't fault you for that. But for this team, for this coach, there's not a better, more realistic option than Nelson.
But I don't expect the commenters here to agree with me, not on this issue. Nelson's the scapegoat more often than not. I've worked hard in my three-plus seasons covering Orlando to explain why he's so integral to this team's success, but hardly anyone buys into it. That's my fault, but if I had the mentality of most Magic fans, I'd probably just pin it on Nelson and be done with it.