If you pay attention to the Philadelphia college basketball scene at all, then you no doubt remember the 2003-04 season and what the St. Joseph’s Hawks and point guard Jameer Nelson accomplished that year. The team, led by Nelson and his backcourt teammate Delonte West, took the Hawks to a perfect regular season record of 27-0 and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The team went all the way to the Elite Eight and was within a heartbeat of the Final Four before the Oklahoma State Cowboys put an end to their magical season.
Nelson, who became a local and national standout thanks to the Hawk’s incredible run, averaged 20.6 points and 5.3 assists per game that year and landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first A10 athlete to do so since 1988. In 2004 he was drafted No. 20 overall by the Denver Nuggets but was traded to the Orlando Magic, where he would spend the next 10 seasons becoming a mainstay of the team and helping them go to the NBA Finals. He averaged 12.1 points and 7 assists per game during the 2012-13 season, what would eventually become his last with the Magic, getting waived by the team on June 30, 2014.
To say Nelson means a lot to the city of Philadelphia is a huge understatement. A local guy who played high school ball in Chester, PA, every time the Magic would play the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center it was always a party, with St. Joe’s alum filling the place to the rafters. It was the one time each season you really didn’t mind the fans rooting for the opposing team.
So everyone in Philly was thrilled to hear this week that Nelson has signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks for $2.7 million. He is expected to compete with Raymond Felton and Devin Harris for minutes, but the Mavericks have made it clear they wanted someone with Nelson knowldege and leadership skills on the court. For Nelson’s part, he seems thrilled, saying to the Dallas Morning News:
“This is how I look at things – one day at a time. It’s a process. It’s a process to be a good team and to win games. They already have a great pedigree here and I’ve been a winner, so I think it’s a good fit for me.”
I know everyone in Philadelphia wishes Nelson nothing but the best. I never would have thought of myself as rooting for the Dallas Mavericks, but now’s as good a time as any to start.