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Magic question: Will Nelson play?

He's an All-Star, he feels healthy, and he dominated the Lakers during the regular season. So it seems pretty simple: Jameer Nelson should play in the NBA Finals.

He's an All-Star, he feels healthy, and he dominated the Lakers during the regular season.

So it seems pretty simple: Jameer Nelson should play in the NBA Finals.

It's not so easy to the Orlando Magic, who still weren't ready to make a decision yesterday before practicing for the final time before facing the host Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 at the Staples Center tonight.

"It's a tough decision on Jameer either way you go, because I think he is able to play right now," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Now, how much he can do, I don't know.

"We'll just decide after today if we think playing him gives us a better chance to win than not playing him. It's really as simple as that, but the decision won't be easy."

Nelson averaged 27.5 points in two victories against the Lakers, expertly utilizing the Magic's pick-and-roll offense to create lanes to penetrate or step back for three-pointers.

Nelson tore the labrum in his right shoulder on Feb. 2. He was expected to be off the court until August following surgery on Feb. 19. But he's regained full range of motion, and began taking part in fullcourt drills during the Magic's Eastern Conference finals victory over the Cavaliers.

"You just want to play. You never know when you're going to get back to the finals," Nelson said. " . . . But if I'm not able to, I can't do it. I'm not going to do anything crazy or anything to jeopardize my future."

He shot the ball fine and didn't appear limited during the portion of practice that was open to the media yesterday, but that all took place in the half court. Running up and down the floor could be different, but Nelson's teammates seem to believe he should try it.

"We understand that Jameer has been out for a while. He's rusty, he hasn't had a lot of experience in playing," All-Star center Dwight Howard said. "But I think the one thing that he brings to our team is he's fearless. When he's playing like that, when he's playing with no care in the world and he's not afraid to do anything, then that's when everybody on the team, they follow behind him."


* Cavaliers star LeBron James has been released from the Cleveland Clinic after a 5-hour procedure to remove a benign growth from his jaw a day earlier.

The team says James returned home and is recovering well. He has had the condition for several months, but opted to put off surgery until the Cavaliers completed their season.

* New York Knicks forward Wilson Chandler had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left ankle and is expected to be sidelined at least a month.

* Boston Celtics guard Tony Allen has had surgery on his right ankle and leg. The team says he's expected to recover from the surgery in time for training camp this fall.

* Comcast Corp. has reached a new 7-year agreement that will add the NBA TV channel to the cable TV operator's most popular digital tier of service before the start of pro basketball season.

Comcast struck the deal after NBA Digital agreed to sharply lower the per-subscriber rate it charges the cable operator, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details. An official announcement was expected today.

* A lawmaker urged the NBA to repeal its requirement that players be at least 19 years old and a year out of high school before entering the league, calling the restriction unfair.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., sent identical letters to NBA commissioner David Stern and union leader Billy Hunter, asking that they scrap the requirement in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Cohen, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called the requirement "an unfair restriction on the rights of these young men to pursue their intended career."

He suggested that the policy might have contributed to scandals involving players in his city of Memphis, citing former University of Memphis star Derrick Rose and current Memphis Grizzlies player O.J. Mayo.

Rose, who led the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs, has come under a cloud cast by an NCAA investigation of major violations at Memphis during his only season there.

Mayo played for one season at Southern Cal. Louis Johnson, a former associate of Mayo's, has told federal and NCAA investigators that USC head coach Tim Floyd gave $1,000 in cash to a man who helped steer the star player to the Trojans. Floyd has not responded to the allegation. *