Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports Jameer Nelson will opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, leaving Orlando searching for a point guard and hoping to re-sign the eight-year Magic player.
This move is not a surprise. Nelson is thought to want a long-term deal and was afraid that by picking up the final year of his contract he would be traded out of Orlando. Undoubtedly, his expiring contract worth about $8 million would have been enticing to a team looking to dump some salary.
And undoubtedly, Nelson by opting out is sending a subtle signal that he wants long-term security and to be sure of where he is going to be playing for the foreseeable future. And it might be a subtle signal that Nelson wants to remain in Orlando long term.
Nelson has spent the entirety of his eight-year career in Orlando and has firmly put his roots down in the City Beautiful. It does not seem like he wants to uproot those. In the run up to this decision Nelson said he wanted to stay in Orlando, and Rob Hennigan has repeatedly said he wants to see Jameer Nelson in a Magic uniform for a long time.
Now it will come down to business and trying to get a deal done that both sides will agree to. This does not seem incredibly far-fetched. Many believe Nelson would be willing to take less money — he made $7.8 million last season and was set to make $8 million next year — for that long-term stability. Nelson might be in line for the four-year, $24 million deal that Jason Richardson or Glen Davis got… or something completely different.
There will be decisions that need to be made. But signing Jameer Nelson has to be a major priority in the offseason when free agency opens up. Orlando is not particularly deep at point guard right now.
Nelson has been a source of criticism and a lightning rod among Magic fans for plenty of seasons, particularly when the team was contending for a championship. The struggles at point guard have been particularly blatant with the failure of the Chris Duhon signing. Nelson did not have a good year last year, averaging 11.9 points per game and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 42.7 percent. His scoring and field goal percentage were two of the lowest marks of his career.
The problem with Nelson these last few years has been the high bar he set in 2009 before his shoulder injury. He has been chasing that Nelson ever since and has not been able to duplicate that incredible 42-game run. Orlando has only seen flashes of his 16.7 points per game, 50.3 percent field goal shooting and 45.3 percent 3-point shooting from that season. The most notable flash was in the 2010 Playoffs when he torched Raymond Felton and Mike Bibby and then saved Orlando in Game Four against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Again, Nelson opting out does not mean he and the Magic are parting ways. This was a business move for Nelson to ensure his long-term future. It is now just about getting a deal done that both sides will like. We will likely learn about Rob Hennigan the negotiator in this case if both sides truly want to get a deal done.
In the other free agent news, the Magic formally offered their qualifying offer to Ryan Anderson, making him a restricted free agent. Orlando can match any offer for Anderson. Whether they will or not is still an open question especially considering the fact Orlando used its first round pick on Andrew Nicholson. Anderson might be priced out of what the Magic want to pay. But we will see what kind of market Anderson gets.
It seems that Orlando is determined to have both Nelson and Anderson back on the team next year.