The issue was forgotten for most of the season in the hoopla that was Dwight Howard. Nelson quietly has been playing out his own option year.
Jameer Nelson though did not let his uncertain future play out for everyone to see. It was always assumed that Nelson would decline his early termination option and play the final year of his contract next season. It was not until last week that Nelson revealed that he had not made a decision about his future and that he may, in fact, opt out of his contract.
This realization seems to be growing more and more likely now that the season has ended.
Nelson has to inform the Magic of his intentions to terminate his contract or decline it within a week of their final game or by June 15 (whichever is later, not within three days as the Magic Preisdent of Basketball Operations Otis Smith originally reported by told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday). The Magic corrected their statements to reporters Wednesday and clarified that Nelson would have until June 15 to make a decision.
By the NBA Draft then, the Magic will know whether they have to plan contingencies regarding their starting point guard for much of the past eight years or whether that position will be decently solidified.
"I'm a Jameer Nelson fan. I have always been a Jameer Nelson fan since probably his sophomore year in college," Magic president of basketball operations Otis Smith said. "What he's able to do on the floor probably puts him in the top tier of point guards in this league. We would like to keep him around the franchise as long as we can keep him around the franchise. We also understand the way the league works."
Nelson had an up-and-down season this year. His play in the postseason called back his dominating days in 2009 and 2010, but his overall season 11.9 points per game and 5.7 assists per game, shooting a career-roworst 42.7 percent from the floor. Nelson has become a better 3-point shooter and a better distributor, but he still struggles against bigger point guards and picking his spots to attack and distribute.
Nelson increased his production in the postseason with 15.6 points per game and 6.6 assists per game as he took on a bigger role.
He certainly benefited and would continue to benefit from having a guy like Hedo Turkoglu or Vince Carter (circa 2009 and 2010) handling part of the ballhandling duties and taking pressure off of him in that regard.
There is no questioning Nelson's resolve and leadership in the locker room. Nelson may not be the perfect point guard, but he certainly ist still a quality guard in the league.
Of course, the Magic are in something of a paralysis until they figure out what they are doing with Dwight Howard, Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith. The Van Gundy and Smith decisions will likely come in the next few weeks.
John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com reports that Nelson's contract calls for Nelson to inform the Magic of his intentions within three days after the team has been eliminated or by June 15, whichever is later. Nelson will be due $8.6 million according to ShamSports if he decides to opt in.
It does not seem though that Nelson will be ready to make his decision until the franchise makes some of their decisions:
"I can't make the decision until some other decisions are made around here," Nelson told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. "I want to be here in the Orlando Magic uniform. I love being here. I love being in the city."
Smith said he has had conversations with Nelson's representations, but it is completely Nelson's decision. And that is where the rub comes in.
It has been widely rumored that Nelson wants to remain in Orlando, but that he is afraid of the possibility of getting traded or being used solely as trade bait in the final year of his contract, as Andrew Melnick of ESPNFlorida reported in late April. By opting out, the argument goes, Nelson can pick where he wants to play rather than being at the whims of the trade winds and Orlando's uncertain future.
It seems Nelson is open to re-signing with the Magic long term for less to guarantee his place in Orlando a little bit more. As Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post discovered, Nelson is eligible for a no-trade clause because of his time in the league and time with the Magic.
Who knows if Orlando would give Nelson a no-trade clause of some type for him to return for less money. Nelson is probably appropriately priced at the moment, getting a starting point guard for less would likely be a bargain considering what Nelson can give.
But clearly, Nelson is waiting. Just like the Magic are waiting for the big decisions to be made.