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Why Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick Belong

2012 July 7
by Preston Raulerson
J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson

Rob Hennigan wants guys that WANT to be in Orlando

As the slow sands of the Orlando Magic’s Dwight hourglass keep trickling out, the lack of movement on one front has overshadowed the small, intricate moves elsewhere.

Well, let me step back into reality. “Small” is not a good word for $25 million dollars. For the lives of nearly every soul on earth, $25 million is about as significant as it could get. For the NBA, a fantasy land of hardwoods and orange inflatables, $25 million is getting to be pretty tepid. It buys a year of Jordan in his prime, or a few years of Russell Westbrook today. For the Magic, $19 million bought 3 years of starting point guard play, and another $6 million solidified our shooting guard position for the year (either as a starter or heavily utilized backup). Stepping away from it, it is a pretty reasonable and comparatively small use of salary and cap space.

For a 2 guard, $6 million puts you right between an Anthony Morrow/Rip Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich/Arron Afflalo, while ~$6.5 million a year for a point guard puts you in the range of Mike Conley, but less than George Hill, or Rodney Stuckey. Not bad numbers for solid starters, and in middle of the pack for veteran players (read: non-rookie contracts). So then….”nothing to see here, move along”? Not quite.

We aren’t talking about the Nets nor the Bulls, and not Atlanta, Memphis, Indy, Detroit. We are talking about a team that is perched precariously on the tightrope spanning across reloading and rebuilding. All we know is that one of the greatest players in the NBA is contracted with a team that absolutely will not be keeping him. There will be movement, and with that movement there will come a dynamic change to the Orlando Magic as we know it today. There are numerous bad contracts that they will unload for, potentially, other bad contracts, and there is one big damn asset named Dwight that might turn into another player or two, or quite a few draft picks.

What does all of that mean? It means the situation around the Magic is…shifty. There is a ton of uncertainty, not to mention bad blood between Dwight, the organization, and the fans, along with a fully flushed coaching and operational staff. Over the next month, this team as we all know it could be thoroughly blown up, or we could have as little as one starter change. The biggest question that came from the deals for Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick was how that impacts (or is a “tell” for) the organization’s plans. It wasn’t about whether they could play, or if the salary was right for their production, but whether they were the type of player/teammate that the Magic needed for the murky future. So, are they? (click read more to continue the story after the jump)

The answer? Absolutely. Orlando’s new General Manager has been transparent, but measured, about his plans for players, the coaching staff, and the team as a whole…less one very repetitive point: he wants players that want to play for the Magic. Jameer and J.J. have never been accused of quitting on the team, or giving less than all. They have their (well documented) faults, either in athleticism, or size, or ability…but I would challenge someone to fault them on effort, on devotion, and investment. More so, this year was the hardest possible situation to play under for this Magic team (and especially Jameer). Frustrated bubbled over to the court and we’ve read the rumors that the strife between teammates came out both emotionally and physically.

I think what we saw last season was a team that was fractured and made dysfunctional by their brightest star through his personal goals of “better” teammates and different teams. Like a previously sharp sword honed during 2009-2010 playoff runs, it was slowly dulled, and chipped, and warped, and then last season was that metal melting in the most intense heat, losing whatever shape and sharpness it once had. Through that process, metal has two paths: to become harder and stronger, or to become brittle and a liability.

Jameer and J.J. Redick both showed by the end of the year that they were the former, and bringing them back into either a rebuilding or a reloading situation can only help the cause. They have the mentality that Orlando needs in the locker room in order to shape this new team of theirs, and their production on the floor is worth the value of the contract at least. Basically, the positive character and leadership comes free as a package deal. It is what the Magic need, and whether they are the elder statesmen for a young rebuilding effort or cogs of a playoff contender, the moves were the right ones to make.

Preston Raulerson is the Lead Assistant Blogger for the MBO team of two. Follow him on Twitter.

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