Shortly after the Orlando Magic waived point guard Jameer Nelson in June, they rented two billboards around town just to thank him for his decade of service with their organization.
The Magic also posted a message outside of Amway Arena to honor Nelson, and redecorated the home page of their website to pay homage to one of the most popular players in the team’s illustrious history.
“It means a lot and it says a lot about the organization,” Nelson, now with the Dallas Mavericks, said. “They’re first class, ownership is first class.
“It was one of those situations where it’s time for me to go, and it was time for them to let me go. But I really appreciate the support and the love that they showed me and that they gave me when I was there, and even when I left.”
Nelson will make his first NBA appearance in Orlando in another team’s uniform at 6 p.m. Friday when the Mavs play their final preseason game against the Magic.
Orlando would have owed Nelson $8 million in the last year of a three-year deal had he been on their roster by July 16.
But by waiving him June 29, the Magic only had to pay him $2 million.
“It was a mutual agreement,” Nelson said. “I was ready to go and they were doing things that I went through for the last two years that I enjoyed doing.
“I enjoyed doing the rebuilding process with them, but it was time for me to go. If you asked me if I asked for the buyout, it was mutual.”
Nelson is the Magic’s all-time leader in assists, second in games played, second in field goals attempted, third in minutes played and fourth in scoring.
But he’s 32 years old and the new kid on the block. Point guard Victor Oladipo is 22 and was the second overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft.
Wanting to get Oladipo on the court more, the Magic knew they had little playing time left for Nelson.
“I think the sky’s the limit for Victor,” Nelson said. “He’s obviously one of the most athletic guards out there — a big, strong guy.”
Nelson appreciates Oladipo coming to the Magic and not stepping on the legacy he had already created in Orlando.
“The one thing that I really like about him is he loves to be in the gym and he loves to learn, and he listens,” Nelson said. “He’s not one of those guys who’s a knucklehead, who comes into the league and thinks he knows everything.
“He actually listened to me, and he asks questions. That was encouraging to me to have somebody under my wing for that one year to kind of guide through a rookie transition part of coming into this league.”
As Nelson is transitioning with the Mavs, he’s doing so knowing he has a coach who admires his game.
“I love his personality, I’ve always liked his game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I like guys that are no-nonsense, a man of few words — that’s really kind of what he is.
“He knows you do your talking when you’re on the court. I think he’s going to have a terrific year for us.”
The Mavs signed Nelson to a bargain-basement two-year contract that’ll pay him $2.75 million this season and has a player option that will pay him $3.25 million next season.
Money, however, wasn’t foremost on Nelson’s mind when he left the Magic.
“My thing is if you win you’re going to get paid,” Nelson said. “I’m here to win and everything else will take care of itself.
“I’m not necessarily saying everybody wants to make a gazillion dollars. But at the end of the day you have to be real with yourself and your life at all times.”
Nelson certainly accumulated a lot of fond memories with the Magic, including when he helped guide them to the NBA Finals in 2009.
“I have a lot of great memories,” Nelson said. “The good definitely outweighs the bad there.
“One thing I can say is I just wish those guys luck. I’m here now in Dallas and this is my team that I’m on and the organization that I’m with and the guys I’m going to battle with, so that’s the priority right there for me.”
Nelson knows he’ll likely receive a thunderous ovation Friday night when he’s introduced to the crowd in Orlando.
He’s aware that goes with the territory of giving everything for one organization for 10 years.
“It should be fun because I just can’t say it’s going to be another game in another city, because I’ve been there for 10 years and the organization and the city was good to me,” Nelson said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”