ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando Magic players say Jameer Nelson will play in the NBA finals, even though the All-Star point guard and his coach remain publicly pessimistic.
Nelson participated in a full team practice Tuesday for the first time since tearing the labrum in his right shoulder Feb. 2. While Nelson and coach Stan Van Gundy still said the point guard’s status won’t be determined until game day, players said Nelson looked “terrific” and expect him to be on the court against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I expect to see him out there at some point in the series,” backup point guard Anthony Johnson said.
Nelson had what was then called season-ending surgery Feb. 19. Nelson’s rehabilitation was supposed to take at least another two months.
Game 1 of the finals is Thursday night in Los Angeles, and healed or not, Nelson wants to play.
“I’m not saying I’m any tougher or stronger than anybody, but I’ve been known to do some amazing things sometimes,” Nelson said.
Magic general manager Otis Smith had repeatedly said Nelson will not play again this season. But he recanted his comments Monday and said a quicker recovery and the chance of winning a championship has forced him to at least take a look at Nelson
“It’s still no in my mind,” Smith said. “There’s a very smidgen of a chance he can play.”
That “smidgen” seems to be growing.
Nelson has been playing full-court games and practicing in non-contact drills for the last two weeks. Tuesday, he participated in every drill.
Players said Nelson wasn’t in his All-Star form, but even not completely healthy, he was better than most NBA point guards.