New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan’s job just got a little busier Friday when starting point guard and team captain Jameer Nelson declined his option to remain with the team. Nelson does not wish to leave Orlando but the team will now have to negotiate a new contract or he will depart.
Declining the option sounds like Nelson is trying to cut ties with the team that drafted him in 2004 but that could not be further from the truth. As last season wound down and the “Dwightmare” continued to drag on, Nelson repeatedly expressed his desire to remain with the Magic. Hennigan has also expressed his desire for Nelson to remain in Orlando making his departure seem even more unlikely.
Besides both parties wanting Nelson as a member of the Magic next season, the team needs Nelson on the team. Stan Van Gundy’s firing to appease want-away star center and fellow captain Dwight Howard was a colossal mistake if he leaves. Howard was the only player on the Magic that wanted Van Gundy gone as several players came out publicly in support of their coach. In a league where players run the organization, those were telling statements.
Without their beloved coach, Nelson is the one and only leader of the team. Nobody on the Magic can trust nor respect Howard after the way he acted during last season when he threw his teammate and reported friend Nelson under the bus by naming point guards he would like to join the Magic. Failing to bring their team leader back would set the team much farther back than they will be if Howard departs.
Former Magic general manager Otis Smith made several mistakes throughout his tenure which helped put the team in the situation they are now in with Howard. Whether he leaves or not, failure to re-sign Nelson who wishes to return would be an early mistake by Hennigan Tthat he may not be able to recover from.