Jameer Nelson not expected to play tonight

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic are expected to keep All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson sidelined for Game 1 tonight.

Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson isn’t likely to play tonight in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the L.A. Lakers, but he is expected to be activated and dress out, the Sentinel has learned. The chance of him playing in the series is still remote.

It’s interesting that the team is going to activate him and that he’s going to dress for the game. One of the most amazing things about Orlando’s run to the Finals is the fact that they’ve done it without Nelson, who is considered to be the team’s second-best player after Dwight Howard (or at least he was having the second-best season when he injured his shoulder). The Magic are still capable of upsetting the Lakers in the series, but it will be tougher without Nelson’s help.

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Magic players say that Nelson will play

GM Otis Smith and Jameer Nelson have tempered their optimism publicly, but the Orlando Magic players seem to think that Nelson will play in the Finals.

Nelson participated in a full team practice Tuesday for the first time since tearing the labrum in his right shoulder Feb. 2. While Nelson and coach Stan Van Gundy still said the point guard’s status won’t be determined until game day, players said Nelson looked “terrific” and expect him to be on the court against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s still no in my mind,” Smith said. “There’s a very smidgen of a chance he can play.”

That “smidgen” seems to be growing.

Nelson has been playing full-court games and practicing in non-contact drills for the last two weeks. Tuesday, he participated in every drill.

Players said Nelson wasn’t in his All-Star form, but even not completely healthy, he was better than most NBA point guards.

If Nelson can come back at 85-90%, it would be a big boost for the Magic. Rafer Alston has been great at times, but he had some brutal games shooting the ball against the Cavs. He went 1 for 7 in Game 2 and 1 for 10 in Game 5, which were both losses for the Magic. In Orlando’s four wins, he averaged 17.0 points and shot 25 of 56 (45%) from the field.

The NBA Finals: Position-by-Position

It’s not the matchup that everyone (outside of central Florida) wanted to see, but it’s a good matchup nonetheless. The Magic proved in their series against the Cavs that they are currently the best team in the East, and they’ll face the battle-tested Lakers who are coming off a pair of rough and rugged series against the Rockets and the Nuggets.

Orlando has been the more consistent team and they don’t get rattled. They get down big with regularity and have been able to get back into games by playing one possession at a time and not worrying too much about the scoreboard early on. Conversely, the Lakers have been “bipolar” (to quote their star) and no one really knows which team is going to show up. It seems to be a matter of focus and effort, and the Lakers have struggled with their consistency in both areas of the game. There are times that they look like the best team in the league and there are times when they look like they should have been knocked out in the first round.

Let’s look at each position and break down the different matchups…

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Magic may activate Jameer Nelson for Finals

One thing that has been especially amazing about Orlando’s postseason run is that they’ve done it all without their All-Star guard, Jameer Nelson. According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic are considering the possibility of activating Nelson for the Finals.

General Manager Otis Smith told the Sentinel on Sunday that Nelson would only play if he passes “a litany of tests” and the club is comfortable with a decision that won’t risk his future.

Nelson has not played since tearing the labrum in his right shoulder on Feb. 3 against the Dallas Mavericks. He underwent what was believed to be season-ending surgery on Feb. 19, but his rehabilitation is dramatically ahead of schedule, as much as two months.

Smith said Nelson had an MRI as recently as last week and has participated in contact drills.

“It’s up in the air. We’ll see how Jameer looks the next few days,” Smith said. “There’s a few more things we have to get comfortable with. We’re looking at the pros and cons. Doctors will have to talk to doctors. If we’re at a place where Jameer can help us accomplish our goals, then maybe he can play and give us some more punch.

“There’s a litany of tests he’ll have to pass. His health is the main thing. We’re not going to mortgage his future.”

The Magic went 2-0 versus the Lakers this season and in those two games, Nelson averaged 27.5 points (on 59% shooting), 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds, so getting him back would be a big boost for the franchise. I wouldn’t expect him to be very sharp after sitting out so long, but he could give the Magic some key minutes in certain situations. Besides, if he can shoot the ball, he can help.

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