If one thing should make Lakers fans happy in facing the Orlando Magic, it is that they are missing All Star point guard Jameer Nelson.
Except, they may not be.
Nelson has been out with a shoulder injury since Feb. 3, and was not expected to be available for the playoffs. Then again, the Magic weren’t supposed to be able to make the Finals without him.
Now Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith is saying maybe he can play some, if he passes “a litany of tests” and it will not do long term damage. So who knows what that really means, but you can bet if Orlando can find a way to get him back on the court they will.
In the two meetings this year, Nelson destroyed the Lakers. He averaged 27.5 points, shot 58.8% from the field, also 58% from three, and was +20 for the two games. Nelson is the kind of quick point guard that has broken down the Lakers defense all season long.
Of course, rushing Nelson back for the Finals may not be as big a help as is feared. For one, the guy hasn’t played since Feb. 3, and has not even practiced with the team — no matter how much you ride the treadmill, you are not in game shape. And more than shape, it’s timing and shooting touch — those things take a little time to come back. To expect Nelson to step into the most intense basketball game and atmosphere he has ever been in cold after more than four months without playing is asking a lot, even if it is just 10 minutes a night.
Plus, in the last four months the Magic have developed rotations and a rhythm without Nelson — now Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston and Hedo Turkoglu are running the pick and roll. And doing it well. Breaking up that rhythm may not be good for the team.
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But forcing the Lakers to gameplan for a potential game changer might be enough to give the Magic and edge. Let the head games begin!