It seemed so far off when the Magic's season ended in early May with a loss to the Pacers. It is finally here though. Perhaps a little sooner in the procedural process than the Magic and the player would like.
By the end of the day Friday, Orlando was supposed to know whether Jameer Nelson will play the final year of his contract or become a free agent July 1, becoming the first piece of the puzzle to fall in what is shaping up to be a summer of change at Amway Center. Instead, Nelson and the Magic have agreed to delay his decision day to June 29, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Without a GM and little cap room, it is still very difficult to figure out where Jameer Nelson fits. So it was a good decision by both the player and the franchise to wait things out and see how they play out. The choice about his future ultimately rests with Nelson, where he reportedly wants it.
Jameer Nelson has reportedly stressed that he wants to secure his long-term future in Orlando. But he reportedly recognizes that picking up his option likely makes him trade bait as an expiring contract in Orlando's rebuilding effort. It might be best for him to leave on his own terms and find that long-term deal and security somewhere else.
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel caught up with Nelson and asked him what his thoughts were on the eve of what was supposed to be his big free agency decision:
"Who doesn't want a long-term deal?" Nelson said. "Everybody wants that security. I love the Magic organization . . . but at the end of the day, I have to do what's best for me and my family."
Nelson is due between $7.9 million and $8.6 million next season, depending on what salary database you believe, if he picks up the final year of his contract.
He averaged 11.9 points per game, his lowest since Stan Van Gundy's first year with the Magic, and dished out 5.7 assists per game while shooting a career-worst 42.7 percent from the floor. He ended the year with a 14.6 PER and a 49.9 percent effective field goal percentage.
Nelson had an up-and-down year, but came through for Orlando in the Playoffs with 15.6 points per game, 6.6 assists per game and 39.2 percent shooting in the five-game set as a more featured player in the offense.
There were shades of the 2009 Nelson in those games.
Obviously, if the Magic had 2009 Jameer Nelson, there would be no question that he would be looking at a long-term deal and a comfortable spot in the Magic's lineup. Of course, it feels like Orlando has been chasing that Jameer Nelson ever since he tore his labrum and missed the final quarter of the 2009 season and most of the Finals run.
Nelson has only shown flashes since then, rarely bringing the type of consistency the team desires out of its point guard. It began raising the rumors that Dwight Howard was requesting the team go after star point guards like Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Steve Nash, replacing his good friend. No one is quite sure if those are true or not.
The one thing you can always say about Nelson is that he is a professional.
Nelson ducked his head and got his work done all season, doing a lot of work behind the scenes as the team captain to try and keep this team together, and perhaps bridge some gaps between anyone and Dwight Howard. This season wore on everyone, and Nelson might have taken the brunt of the damage.
Will he be willing to do that again?
It is clear, especially since Nelson and the Magic agreed to this extension, that Nelson wants to stay in Orlando. He has said as much. But he is not going to do it if the team is going to ship him out before the season ends. That is definitely not what he wants.
At least now, the Magic and their new general manager will get to say their piece and let him know how he fits into the team's future.
The waiting continues.