Jameer Nelson probably understands Dwight Howard as well as anyone in the league right now.
The two were, after all, drafted together in 2005 when the Magic coupled taking Howard with their number one pick with the acquisition of the 20th pick from Denver (Nelson). Nelson, despite being nearly a foot shorter than Howard, is something like a big brother for the plucky 25-year-old center. The two grew close in their seven years already spent in Orlando. I would imagine there is nobody on the team Howard trusts more (and behind the scenes, Nelson takes on more of a leadership role for the entire team).
Nelson is no superstar.
His one All-Star appearance came bitter sweet as Nelson was in street clothes with a torn labrum suffered a few weeks earlier. That injury cost him and his team a lot more as Nelson tried to come back too soon and was a shell of himself when he hit the floor for the first time in the 2009 Finals.
It is difficult to think that Nelson can understand anything that Dwight Howard is weighing as he prepares -- or braces himself -- for the free agency bonanza that will center on him in 2012. He knows the storm is coming, even if he continues to try and deflect it.
But the thing is, a lot of NBA players do understand what Howard is going through. They understand the business side of the NBA and that players come and go no matter the situations for a variety of reasons.
Nelson's view of Howard's much hyped free agency does little to refute that notion.
"People ask me every day what he's going to do," Nelson told Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel a few weeks ago. "I don't know what he's going to do. I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow. One thing I know is the guy is preparing to be the best player he can be this season, and that's all I can say. I don't know what his decision is going to be.
"Whatever he's going to do, he's like my little big brother. He'll definitely have support from me. But obviously, he's definitely wanted here in Orlando."
It may hurt for fans to hear a team captain say that, or it may hurt for fans to come to the realization that their favorite players are ultimately in a business -- and their teammates and friends know that -- and not subject to the whims of city loyalty.
But this is the truth. Players understand the search for "greener pastures" for both economic and professional reasons in the NBA.
Nelson probably hopes Howard stays in Orlando. He is, after all, under contract in Orlando through 2013 and is viewed as a cornerstone for the franchise (whether he deserves that or not is another argument entirely). He does not want to see his friend and his team's best player leave in any form. But, at the same time, it is clear Nelson understands everything weighing on Howard and the difficult choice that lies ahead of him.
And, like a good friend, teammate and colleague, Nelson is willing to understand with little animosity if Howard decides to take an opportunity elsewhere. That is about all Howard can ask for from one of his closest teammates.
|Like CC on Facebook||Follow CC on Twitter|