Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty ImagesPoint guard Jameer Nelson has career averages of 12.6 points and 5.4 assists per game.DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks haven’t officially named a starting point guard, but Jameer Nelson wearing white during the first practice of training camp provides a pretty good hint at the direction they’re leaning.
As do coach Rick Carlisle’s comments about the intangible qualities that Nelson brings to Dallas after a decade in Orlando.
Carlisle sounds a lot like he did when he discussed Tyson Chandler when the big man first joined the Mavs four years ago. When camp opened, it wasn’t clear whether Chandler or Brendan Haywood would start at center, but it didn’t take long before Carlisle started referring to Chandler as a critical element of the team’s soul.
That’s the kind of presence the Mavs anticipate for Nelson, who is rejuvenated after spending the last two seasons as the veteran leader of a rebuilding franchise.
“He’s just got a grit and toughness about him that we really need on this team this year,” said Carlisle, who calls Nelson a “natural leader” whose style commands instant respect. “His game is going to help us, but his personality is going to help us, too.”
Owner Mark Cuban mentioned that the Mavs targeted Nelson, who has career averages of 12.6 points and 5.4 assists per game, with their cap-room exception as much for his leadership ability as his production.
It’s reasonable to anticipate that Nelson, whose shooting percentages dipped significantly the last two years, will approach the efficiency levels of earlier in his career, when he helped the Magic make six straight playoff appearances. He said it felt “weird” when he got a wide-open shot Tuesday, but those things tend to happen for point guards when defenses have to deal with Dirk Nowitzki, not to mention Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons.
Nelson came to Dallas despite the Mavs having two veteran point guards with significant starting experience already on the roster. He calls it a “healthy competitiveness” between Devin Harris, Raymond Felton and him.
Healthy competitiveness would be a pretty good description for what the Mavs are counting on Nelson to bring on a consistent basis.
“Who I’ve been throughout my career is a tough guy, not a guy who cracks easily or gives up,” Nelson said. “There’s going to be tough times and you need guys in the locker room that can get you through those tough times. We have a lot of leadership and guys lead in different ways, so I’ll just do my part. I’m not going to come here and change who I am and play different. I’m going to play the same way. That’s why they brought me here.”
That’s why Nelson is a good bet to be the Mavs’ starting point guard.