Not long 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 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 Friday night when the Mavs play their final preseason game against the Magic. This comes one night after the New Orleans Pelicans edged the Mavs 88-85 on Thursday night in a preseason game at CenturyLink Center.
Gal Mekel led the Mavs with game highs of 17 points and eight assists in 42 minutes; Jae Crowder scored 14 points, Charlie Villanueva tallied 13, Ivan Johnson had 11; and Bernard James finished with six points and 10 rebounds. Ricky Ledo (4 of 15, nine points) missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Devin Harris, Brandan Wright and Nelson did not play against the Pelicans. But those seven, widely considered the Mavs’ top rotation players, will definitely play when Dallas squares off against the Magic.
As far as Nelson goes, Orlando would have owed him $8 million in the last year of a three-year deal had he been on its roster by July 16. But by waiving him on June 29, the Magic only had to pay him $2 million.
Nelson acknowledged that the two sides mutually agreed to go their separate ways.
“I was ready to go and they were doing things that I went through for the last two years that I enjoyed doing,” Nelson said. “I enjoyed doing the rebuilding process with them, but it was time for me to go.”
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 just 22 years old.
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 think he’s going to have a terrific year for us.’’
The Mavs signed Nelson to a bargain-basement two-year contract that will 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.”
As arguably the most popular player in Magic history, Nelson knows he’ll receive a thunderous ovation when he’s introduced to the Orlando crowd. He’s also aware that goes with the territory of spilling his guts 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.”
Mavericks at Magic
6 p.m. Friday, Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.
Records: Mavs 3-4; Magic 4-3
Radio: ESPN/103.3 FM