Jameer Nelson just can’t catch a break. Last February, the Magic’s starting guard hurt his shoulder, causing him to shut it down for the rest of last season and almost the entire playoffs. Just a few weeks into this 2009-10 season, Nelson tore some cartilage in his left knee against the Bobcats on Monday night. Jameer will have surgery on the knee and is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks. The question now is: how much will Nelson’s absence hurt the Magic in the short and long run?
Right now, the Magic’s record is standing at 8-3 and they are in third place in the extremely competitive Southeast Division. You figure at worst, the Magic will be without Nelson for around 20 games. Unless they make a move for another point guard, they will have to make due with Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson. The big concern about those two, is their ages – J-Will is 34 years old while Johnson is 35. So far, in his first season back after sitting out last year, Williams has been solid and more efficient. In just 18.4 mpg of action, he is averaging 5.4 ppg, 4 apg and his field goal and three point percentages are up and his turnovers are down since the last time he played. Anthony Johnson, on the other hand has barely played at all this season, appearing in just 4 games.
After Nelson went down last year, Rafer Alston came in via trade from Houston and filled in nicely (12.0 ppg, 5.1 apg) for the team’s final 29 regular season games and the first three rounds of the playoffs. Some argued, that the Magic seemed better with Alston than with Nelson. Williams has been a starter all of his career and was the point guard for the 2006 Miami Heat team that won a championship. Now he will be asked to basically double his minutes and probably his point production.
Williams looks like he is in good shape and can handle the extra burn and expectations. White Chocolate still has the flash and the ability to make plays. He’s got a lot of experience and can get guys like Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter easy looks. The good news is, only nine out of the next 20 games are against playoff teams, but the bad news is he’ll have to match up against Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams (twice) and rookie Brandon Jennings (twice).
If Williams can help Orlando win around 13 of those games, than the Magic will still have a chance to make a run for the top spot in the East. On top of Johnson as a backup, Carter is another guy who can bring up the ball and create for others. He has a career assist average of 4.2. Plus, the Magic are used to playing without their main players for extended periods of time. They have a deep and versatile enough line up where they can switch things up. They did it last year with Jameer and they did it without Lewis for 10 games.
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