Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson returned to the court Friday against the Charlotte Bobcats after he had missed the four previous games with a sore and swollen left knee.
Coach Jacque Vaughn started Nelson at point guard, where Nelson began the game matched up against the Bobcats' Kemba Walker.
Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Kyle O'Quinn and Nik Vucevic started alongside Nelson. The Magic entered the game with an 0-5 record with that starting lineup.
Nelson is the lone player on the Magic roster who played for Stan Van Gundy, whose coaching staff included Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford and Bobcats assistant coaches Patrick Ewing, Bob Beyer and Mark Price.
Thoughts on Oladipo
Clifford can offer a valuable perspective on the development of Magic rookie Victor Oladipo because the Bobcats hadn't faced the Magic since mid-January.
"In these last few games without Jameer, he's been playing all with the ball, where early in the year they were really more interchangeable," Clifford said. "To me, it's good for him in that he's playing in so many pick-and-rolls, so he's constantly having the opportunity to use his quickness to try to get to the basket."
The Bobcats entered the game with a 35-37 record — a vast improvement over their record of 21-61 from a year earlier.
A primary reason has been the team's new coaching staff.
The Bobcats also made a key free-agent acquisition last summer: The team added center Al Jefferson.
Jefferson possesses an accurate mid-range jumper and an advanced array of low-post moves. The jumper complements his low-post moves well because Jefferson employs an effective pump-fake that forces opposing centers to leave their feet and creates room for Jefferson to drive.
Vucevic learned about that pump-fake the hard way.
On Dec. 5, 2012, Vucevic's first year as an NBA starter, Vucevic consistently fell for Jefferson's pump-fake when the Magic lost to Jefferson's Utah Jazz 87-81. Jefferson scored 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting that night.
The Jazz and the Magic played each other again on Dec. 23, 2012. Vucevic stayed down on Jefferson's fakes, and Jefferson finished with 12 points on 6-of-14 shooting. The Jazz won 97-93, but Vucevic had shown some improvement.
"The first time we played them," Vucevic said, "he gave me like 30-some points. I almost jumped for every single pump-fake. Then the second time he played us, I was not going to jump no matter what happened. I didn't, and it was better."
Before Friday, Vucevic had faced the Bobcats just once this season because he missed the second game due to a concussion. In the game that Vucevic played, the Magic beat the Bobcats 92-83, and Jefferson finished with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
O'Quinn's starting assignment pitted him against Bobcats power forward and former Magic teammate Josh McRoberts, who runs the floor and passes the ball uncommonly well for a 6-foot-10 power forward.
"It's a great challenge for [Kyle] because Josh will be everywhere," Vaughn said. "He'll be down low on the block on some possessions. He'll feed Al on some possessions. So it's going to be a real test to Kyle's ability to be in the right place."
• The Bobcats made eight of their first nine shot attempts. That included a 4-for-4 beginning from 3-point range.
• The Magic turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, leading to nine Bobcats points.
email@example.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun