ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic’s final link to their old regime is now gone.
The Magic waived Jameer Nelson on Monday, parting ways with their longest-tenured player in a move to save valuable salary cap space and turn a page toward the future. Nelson’s departure comes just weeks before the team would have owed him $8 million for the final year of a three-year contract.
But by waiving him by July 16, Orlando owes the veteran point guard only $2 million in guaranteed money.
In a statement released by the team, Nelson thanked the Magic management and ownership, adding that he’d miss the fans that embraced him and “made it easy for us to adopt Orlando as our second home.”
“I appreciate the opportunity the Orlando Magic has afforded me and my family over the past 10 years,” Nelson said. “All good things must come to an end, however, and it’s time to move on. I look forward to continuing my career as an NBA player and will never take for granted my time in Orlando.”
Nelson was selected by Denver 20th overall in the first round of the 2004 draft, but was acquired by Orlando in exchange for a future first round pick on draft night. Listed at 6 feet, he was undersized on most nights but played in 651 regular season games in Orlando with 556 starts, averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 assists, and posting one All-Star season in 2009.
He also was a stalwart on the Magic teams that made the 2009 Finals and 2010 Eastern Conference Finals.
Nelson was the final roster link to both of those teams, with most of the other players now long gone.
He leaves as the franchise’s all-time leader in assists with 3,501. He ranks second in games played (651) and field goals attempted (7,033), and third in minutes played (19,038).
In addition to being a fan favorite, he was also a fixture in a locker room that went through an awkward divorce from Dwight Howard — who at one point suggested replacements for Nelson — and a painful 62-loss season the following year.
Nelson, 32, could potentially re-sign with the Magic, but he’s expected to garner interest in free agency from teams who need a veteran piece.
Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan has been tight-lipped in recent weeks when asked about the team’s plans for Nelson, each time praising him for his professionalism and value to the team.
He did so again on Monday.
“Jameer is the ultimate professional,” Hennigan said. “We truly thank him for his contributions to the organization, both on the court and in the community, during the last decade. He will always be a member of the Magic family.”
But his decision to let go of Nelson, who served a mentor role for Victor Oladipo during his rookie year last season, is clearly a nod to the future.
Orlando made a draft night trade to acquire the rights to 10th overall pick and point guard Elfrid Payton out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He appears to be the franchise’s hope at the position now, after Oladipo struggled at times to play the point last season.
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