It’s an understatement to suggest that Jameer Nelson is accustomed to running several different basketball systems.
On average, he’s amazingly had a new one to operate every other year since he joined the NBA in 2004.
During his first 10 seasons — all with the Orlando Magic — Nelson went through five head coaches. That spans Johnny Davis, Chris Jent, Brian Hill, Stan Van Gundy and Jacque Vaughn.
Now in his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, Nelson is working for his sixth coach in Rick Carlisle.
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Just learning all the different nuances of the different systems means a point guard like Nelson has to be on top of his game. Particularly since the point guard is basically an extension of the coach — the player on the court who is quarterbacking the whole show.
“A couple of them were on the fly basically in the middle of the season,’’ Nelson said of his coaching carousel in Orlando. “It is what it is.
“You’ve just got to learn things just like you had to learn things if the coach is going to be there for the next 20 years. He’s going to put new things in and it’s still going to be a learning process.’’
That learning process for Nelson has gone quite well during his brief tenure with the Mavs.
“Jameer is doing a nice job,’’ Carlisle said. “He’s worked hard at getting to know his teammates and getting to understand what we’re trying to do.
“I like what he’s doing and he’s going to get better.’’
Nelson is the fourth player to be the Mavs’ opening-day starting point guard in four years. He follows Jason Kidd, Darren Collison and Jose Calderon.
Calderon was sacrificed when the Mavs were able to acquire Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton in a trade with the New York Knicks this past June.
“When we signed Jose last year we figured that would be our backcourt with Jose and Monta [Ellis] for a while,’’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “But we all know stuff happens in this league.
“We had a chance to get Tyson back and get Raymond from New York, so we pulled the trigger on that deal. As a point guard I think you usually adjust to a system pretty quick because you’re usually pretty smart.’’
Asked to compare Carlisle’s system to any of the previous five he operated under, Nelson said: “It’s similar to Stan’s system in terms of how we move and cut. We have similar personnel.
“Obviously Dirk is the biggest change that we have in terms of that system. And Monta is different, too, as well.’’
Still, the bottom line is the point guard and the coach have to be aligned systematically because one is conveying information to the other on a constant basis.
“As a point guard you and the coach definitely have to be on the same page and you and the guys have to be on the same page,’’ said Nelson, who worked under Van Gundy from 2007-12. “You’re put in this situation for a reason and I feel like Coach trusts me with running things offensively as well as defensively.’’
Nelson’s basketball IQ, according to Nowitzki, is what levels the playing field and gets others admiring what he’s been able to accomplish on the court.
“I just think he’s overall very, very solid and we’re very glad to have him,’’ Nowitzki said. “He knows how to play, he knows how to get the ball up and get it in the right guys’ hands.
“As a point guard you basically have to use your brain out there, and that’s what he’s doing.’’
Chandler good for the Mavs’ psyche
In addition to his ability to vigorously protect the rim, center Tyson Chandler has been good for the Mavs’ overall psyche. So said Carlisle.
“He has an enthusiasm and an energy about him that is great for any locker room,’’ Carlisle said. “He was a big part of our team when we won it in ’11 and having him back is great because he’s still playing at an extremely high level.’’
Chandler helped establish a defensive culture in his only season with the Mavs (2010-11). That’s the season the Mavs captured their only NBA title.