Jameer Nelson wants to retire as an Orlando Magic player, upset with how things ended

Jameer Nelson had a solid career with the Orlando Magic that has made him one of the most popular players in franchise history. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jameer Nelson had a solid career with the Orlando Magic that has made him one of the most popular players in franchise history. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Jameer Nelson is still a bit upset with how things ended with the Orlando Magic. And he wants to return to the team in some capacity it seems.

Nick Anderson and Jameer Nelson share the important distinction of being the longest-tenured players in Orlando Magic history.

They might as well call themselves Mr. Orlando Magic as they embody players who stepped up in big spots, endeared themselves to fans and played for two of the best teams in franchise history.

Both players’ exits also coincided with the franchise trying to turn the page on the eras that defined them and start new. And neither exit was particularly clean.

The Orlando Magic would trade Anderson to the Sacramento Kings as part of the purge that created the Heart & Hustle team. The team parted ways with Jameer Nelson, agreeing to a contract buyout in the summer of 2014 as the team tried to continue growing.

Nelson’s last few years in Orlando were tumultuous, to say the least.

The Magic traded Dwight Howard in 2012 and kept Jameer Nelson to help mentor young players. But the franchise was still seeking direction as it rebuilt itself.

Nelson put in some of his best individual seasons — averaging 14.7 points and 7.4 assists per game in 2013 and 12.1 points and 7.0 assists per game in 2014. But it was clear the team needed to move on and allow Nelson the chance to compete for a title and grow players on its own roster.

Still, something always sat wrong with how the Magic and Nelson parted ways. Now that Nelson has entered semi-retirement — he still hopes to latch on with a team at some point, but he last played in 2018, reuniting with Stan Van Gundy on the Detroit Pistons — Nelson always receives a cheer when he returns to the Amway Center.

Maybe he wants a little more.

On Nelson’s recently launched podcast, Court Vision, Nelson said he would still like to retire with the Magic and that the conditions that caused him to leave set the franchise he still follows back significantly:

It might be hard to imagine the Magic turning to Nelson at this point for spot minutes. But some type of reunion is certainly in the cards.

Nelson still maintains a home in Orlando and it seems like he wants to reconnect with the city where he spent the majority of his NBA career in some capacity.

He returned last year for one of the Playoff games and received a loud ovation. Nelson is still incredibly popular in Orlando.

The Magic have generally done a good job taking care of former players with Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw now as community ambassadors. Although, it should be noted Anderson had to wait several years after his retirement before rejoining the Magic in some capacity.

Things with Nelson seemed to end amicably, but there was still at least some tension.

On the podcast, Nelson said it was his decision to leave the Magic and accept a buyout from them. But he added that he disagreed with the direction Rob Hennigan took the team.

Nelson said Hennigan set the franchise back 10-15 years. It is hard to argue with that. Orlando went through the longest Playoff drought in franchise history, a drought the team broke last year.

The team is still seemingly climbing out of the salary cap hole the ill-fated summer of 2016 put them in.

Nelson said the Magic are not where they were in 2009 because the team still has to clean up mistakes that were made during Hennigan’s era. And it is not clear they will get back to that point.

Certainly, Orlando needs to find a way to get top-end talent — something high draft picks have not been able to give the Magic yet.

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But the problems with Hennigan go further than his roster philosophy.

Nelson said there were times he was lied to and felt like he was not wanted and needed. Essentially, he felt the franchise turned its back on one of its best players and most popular players under Hennigan.

Immediately after trading Howard, Hennigan decided to do a complete teardown of the team. The goal was to restock the franchise with draft picks, eventually taking Victor Oladipo second in the 2013 Draft and then Aaron Gordon fourth in the 2014 Draft. Orlando had some rotten Lottery luck.

But a rebuild or a regime change should not change how players are treated. Especially players who gave so much to the franchise.

Nelson said members of the front office have reached back out to him to say the biggest mistake was letting Nelson leave. It was a hard decision for fans to take as much as anything else.

There is something to that. Orlando probably could have used an extra veteran even as it tried to turn the reigns over to Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton at the time.

One of the big challenges the current Magic will face is deciding when to let veteran players go to give young players the freedom and confidence to lead and take over. That was something the Magic got right in 2007 when they let Grant Hill go and brought in Rashard Lewis to supplement Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.

Nelson said he was not bitter toward the Magic. But he seems eager to return to the franchise in some fashion.

Next. What If? Series -- 1995 Orlando Magic vs. San Antonio Spurs. dark

Magic fans certainly would like to see that happen soon.