Nelson reflects on magical St. Joe's run

Posted: February 28, 2014

AS HIS 10th year in the NBA starts to wind down, Orlando guard Jameer Nelson is becoming somewhat reflective. He is closer to retirement than he is to the magical season he helped create as an All-America at Saint Joseph's a decade ago, when the Hawks started 27-0 and advanced to the East Regional final.

"It's unbelievable how people still remember what we accomplished as a team at Saint Joe's and still support me, even though I'm not playing for the hometown,'' Nelson said before the Magic-Sixers game last night at the Wells Fargo Center.

"I can't believe [it's been 10 years], but now it's easier for me to reflect on because I'm not in the moment. Just like when I retire from playing basketball in the NBA, I can reflect on it 10 years later."

While his club was all the talk in 2003-04, this season the 30-0, second-ranked Wichita State Shockers are the darlings of college hoops.

"I've heard about it. It's been mentioned," Nelson said. "I wish those guys the best of luck. That city isn't the city that I was playing in. This city is a lot better, I think. I think it was more special here. But regardless, if they continue to win, it will be special for them to go undefeated, no matter where they are. It's tough. You have that big bull's-eye on your back every night. Everybody wants to beat the undefeated team. Everybody wants to knock you off."

Nelson played 41 minutes in the Magic's 101-90 victory over the Sixers. He had 16 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

The 76ers started the season as the youngest team in the history of the NBA. They became even younger when they traded veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen during last Thursday's trade-deadline blitz.

Though he is only 25, a mere pup in the real world, Thaddeus Young is now the elder statesman of the group, like it or not.

"We trade three of his close friends and he looks around and the oldest person is himself," coach Brett Brown said. "We talk about it. We're the youngest team in the history of the game. Thaddeus is now, at 25 years old, our grandfather. He looks around and he's got a bunch of young guys, and he wants to win.

"Unfortunately, this group, at the moment, is not built for that. He has to rise above that and find a way to take advantage and, 'How can I help myself?' You can become an even better leader. You can take far more responsibility when things go poorly. You can demand the ball in the post. You can run the floor harder so we get you the ball. He's complied. He's done all those things. He's a gentleman, he handles himself with class, and I respect and need him to continue to do those things, especially with the group we have."

Brett Brown put out a starting lineup last night against Orlando that included Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson.

As promised, the final days of the season will be primarily about evaluating talent, from the players who are here now to the ones who could be shuffled in and out before it all comes mercifully to an end on April 16.

"You look at character and you look at those types of things," Brown said. "But we're not trying to bring in Boy Scouts. We want high probability that they're going to be able to be in rotations on NBA teams; that they are going to be able to be a part of something that can grow. Are you an elite shooter? Are you an elite defender? Do you just have this incredible desire to defend?

"You bucket people up with their DNA and with their personality and what they bring to the table. What is their skill set? What makes them NBA unique? Those are the types of players that we're looking for and those are the ones that we need to put on the floor and see in this last portion of the season if they're keepers."

At All-Star weekend, Orlando's Victor Oladipo and the Sixers' Michael Carter-Williams shared some fun moments together, and often were seen messing with each other.

It was back to business last night as two of the leaders for the rookie of the year award went against each other. Each seemed to make the other play harder, fueling the idea that this might be something fun to watch in the coming years.

"I think for a while they'll be linked because of their draft class," Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said, "both being rising stars, both being linked together for a long time. Michael has played extremely well . . . He's able to get to the paint and pass the basketball. He's done a lot of nice things for coach Brown."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

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