Thursday, June 4, 2009 Updated: June 5, 6:33 PM ET
Nelson to be active for Magic
By By Chris Sheridan ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- Jameer Nelson was in uniform on Thursday night for Orlando, putting the Magic back at full strength for the NBA Finals.
Nelson, who tore the labrum in his right shoulder Feb. 2 and underwent "season-ending" surgery later that month, has been practicing and scrimmaging with the team for the past two weeks. Asked how his shoulder was feeling and whether his stamina would be a concern, Nelson said: "I couldn't tell you that until I get out on the floor."
Nelson played the entire second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Nelson started the quarter, his first action in four months, and provided a quick spark. He assisted on Marcin Gortat's dunk for Orlando's first basket of the period, then fed Rashard Lewis for a 3-pointer. Nelson then knocked down a jumper and set up Courtney Lee's layup, giving the Magic a 33-28 lead.
Nelson scored four points on 2-of-4 shooting and added four assists.
"Well, we're going to dress him today and probably play him. In some ways, it's not a difficult decision because it just comes down to trying to make the decision that we think gives us the best chance to win," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The easiest decision, the one that would create no problems, would have been to not play him. He would have understood, wouldn't have upset our rotation or any of our players, and I wouldn't open myself up to any criticism for not playing him.
"But in the end, we just think he's ready to go, think he can put some pressure on their defense, and we think he'll get better as the series goes on. We'll have to wait and see, but that's what we're going to do," Van Gundy said, adding: "I don't want him to be on a short leash. ... It's not going to be, 'He had a bad three minutes, so we're not going to play him again.' The guy hasn't played in four months. We're going to stick with him."
Van Gundy said Nelson had been making steady progress in practice, and he made the decision to activate him after watching him extra closely Wednesday and Thursday and consulting with general manager Otis Smith. Nelson has been practicing with the second team, taking contact to the rehabbed shoulder from Dwight Howard and Adonal Foyle.
"He's looked real good," said ex-Laker Tyronn Lue, who was designated as inactive to make room for Nelson on the active list. "I've got to be the best player ever inactive for the Finals -- I've got two rings, I averaged double figures four straight years [actually three] off the bench."
Nelson, an All-Star, was averaging 16.7 points and shooting above 50 percent (45 percent on 3-pointers) before he was injured. The Magic acquired Lue and then Alston to replace him, and Johnson has been the backup playmaker through all of Orlando's 19 postseason games, averaging nearly 15 minutes of playing time along with 4.3 points and 2.1 assists. To date Johnson's most notable moment of the playoffs has been when he had a flagrant foul called against him for elbowing Cleveland's Mo Williams in the eye on a drive to the basket in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. That flagrant foul was later rescinded.
The possible comeback of Nelson, who had surgery Feb. 19, has been the story of this week for Orlando, with teammates insisting that he would play while the coaching staff and front office remained non-committal until Thursday afternoon.
"Everybody really wanted to know what was going on and whether I was playing or not, and it kind of got blown out of proportion," Nelson said. "We'll still approach the game the same way. We are who we are, and we do what we do on the court."
Chris Sheridan is a senior writer for ESPN.com.