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Jameer Nelson was surest option for Orlando Magic

Veteran PG returns as lone club captain

Brian Schmitz

Magic Insider

2:06 PM PDT, July 7, 2012

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Like it or not, the Magic are Jameer Nelson's team now.

Dwight Howard isn't walking through that door anymore.

The Magic re-signed Jameer last week to a three-year deal, needing him as much on the floor as off it. The feeling was mutual.

Whether Nelson looked around as a free agent and didn't find any better offers isn't known.

But he came back to the Magic as the league's game of musical chairs among other point guards — Deron Williams (Nets), Steve Nash (Lakers,) Jason Kidd (Knicks), Kyle Lowry (Raptors) and Goran Dragic (Suns) — was playing out.

Nelson's return produced the usual moans and groans from his critics, the radioactive emails making their way to my inbox.

How I usually answer those fans is with a question: OK, if not Nelson, then what point guard do you want? And you can't answer, "Anybody else!" Or "Deron Williams!"

The fact is, with little financial flexibility and with Howard begging out, the Magic are not the most attractive landing spot, leaving Nelson as the club's surest option.

They knew he wanted to be in Orlando. Plus, the Magic own his "Bird" rights and could pay him whatever they wanted (one report has Nelson's deal at $19.7 million.)

Some of the free-agent point guards still available for the Magic to chase with their mid-level exception (starting at around $5 million) were Ramon Sessions, Raymond Felton, Aaron Brooks, and combo guards Lou Williams and Kirk Hinrich.

I've been a Hinrich guy, but he made $8 million last season and is looking at a return to the Bulls. All of them except Hinrich, 31, are younger than Nelson, but are any a major upgrade from Jameer? Not really.

The Magic know what they are getting in Nelson, who will begin his ninth season as the franchise's longest-tenured player on the roster.

He played with the core that had surrounded Howard last season. And if the club lands Andrew Bynum in a trade for Howard, Orlando is still a playoff team, needing a quarterback.

Even decent point guards aren't easy to come by.

What the Magic desperately need is a quality backup to Nelson, given Chris Duhon's struggles.

Nelson, 30, has been the square peg/round hole kind of guard. He's a scorer, but too short to play the 2 at a shade under 6 feet and not an instinctive facilitator at the 1. Defensively, he has been average at best, and age isn't helping his foot speed.

What Nelson can do is carry the Magic at times as a scorer. He is still one of the few players who can create a shot. His commitment and guile are beyond reproach.

The Magic brought back Nelson because they feel he'll be an even better presence in the lockeroom with Howard absent.

Howard was a co-captain with Nelson the last several years. But even former GM Otis Smith publicly questioned Howard's leadership and maturity. The best player sets the tone even if he's indifferent to leading — unless there is a strong veteran presence in the dressing room. All too often I saw horseplay by the Magic co-captains after bitter losses.

Obviously, new GM Rob Hennigan is placing a premium on character. J.J. Redick has earned enough respect to make the captaincy a two-man job again, but until further notice, it's all on Nelson.

Hollywood Dwight?

At this point, the Magic can't make any demands on the Lakers if a Dwight Howard trade can be hatched.

Ideally, Orlando would love to send any of its bad contracts along in the shipment of Howard for C Andrew Bynum.

Their salaries are close enough. Howard will make $19.5 million and Bynum $16.1 million, although the Magic could try to slip Duhon's $3.2 million into the deal.

Howard's chance of being dealt to his favorite landing spot — the Brooklyn Nets — is sinking. He would do himself good to consider the Lakers, especially now that Nash is aboard. The least of Howard's concerns at this point should be following Shaq's Orlando-to-L.A. path.

The Magic would be elated to land Bynum. Bynum doesn't come without baggage, but he is regarded as the league's second-best center.

It would be the best deal any club in this situation — a star holding his team hostage — would have ever made.

Summer in the city

The Magic play host to the AirTran Airways Orlando Pro Summer League starting Monday, giving the club their first chance to watch draft picks Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn, both power forwards.

One of the more intriguing stories is forward Magnum Rolle, who is on the Magic roster.

From Freeport, Bahamas, Rolle played with Magic PF Glen "Big Baby" Davis at LSU before transferring to Louisiana Tech.

Magic GM Rob Hennigan became familiar with Rolle when Hennigan was an assistant GM with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Rolle was drafted by the Thunder in the second round in 2010, the 51st pick. Oklahoma City, however, traded him to the Indiana Pacers.

And yes, Rolle was named after "Magnum P.I.," the popular 80's television show starring Tom Selleck, who played private investigator Thomas Magnum.

This 'n' That

Heard from Magic SF Hedo Turkoglu, who is vacationing with his family in Cypress … Rodney "Sid" Powell, the Magic's equipment manager/facility coordinator extraordinaire since their inaugural season, survived the recent housecleaning. As a former Magic coach says, "They can't get rid of Sid. He knows where all the bodies are buried." How true … I read where apparently the Lakers are concerned about Howard's surgically repaired back. Interesting, considering the Nets are pulling hernias trying to land him … Steve Nash, 38, heading to the Lakers gives a rebirth to Showtime, er, Slowtime.

bschmitz@tribune.com. Brian's eBook, "Dwightmare: Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic and the Season of Dysfunction," is available at Amazon.com and all major online bookstores for $4.99.