Nets’ Plumlee is good as gold
Brooklyn big man enjoys surprising run to World Cup title
Mason Plumlee will show up for Nets training camp with a little extra jewelry around his neck later this month. And I’m not talking about the kind you can buy at the Fulton Mall.
Brooklyn’s All-Rookie First Team center received a gold medal Sunday in Madrid, Spain as a member of Team USA after it routed Serbia, 129-92, in the championship game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
“It’s a dream come true,” Plumlee said via the Nets’ website. “It’s every player’s dream, and I am just fortunate to be a part of this team.”
Good fortune had at least something to do with Plumlee winding up on the squad, but as usual, it was his drive, demeanor and willingness to do whatever it takes that made him a late addition to Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski’s star-studded roster.
Originally added as a practice player to help the squad run 5-on-5 practice drills, Plumlee quickly established himself as a contender for a spot on the team.
His former Duke coach certainly needed some additional size in the paint after reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant and star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge decided not to play in Spain.
Plumlee, whom the Nets selected in the opening round of the NBA Draft at Barclays Center 14 months ago, did what he usually does. He took an opportunity and ran with it — all the way to a gold medal.
“I didn’t go to camp thinking I wasn’t going to make the team,” Plumlee said as the team prepared to embark on its championship trek.
“I don’t think if you’re a competitor you approach it that way. There were a lot of great players there. I just tried to concentrate on my game, what I can bring, and it worked out.”
It always seems to work out for Plumlee, who won a national championship under Krzyzewski at Duke, filled in more than ably for injured Nets starters Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett during his rookie campaign and provided some depth for Team USA as it rolled over the international competition.
For the tournament, Plumlee averaged just 2.3 points per game, while logging just under seven minutes per contest. He hit nine of his 15 shots and grabbed a pair of rebounds, hardly numbers to write home about.
But the 7-footer’s tenacious work ethic during Team USA’s practices and pre-World Cup exhibitions rubbed off on his fellow teammates, and made the decision to take him to the tournament a no-brainer for Krzyzewski and his staff.
“Well, in Mason’s case, he’s basically doing what he did his senior year at Duke when he was rated the top big guy in the country,” Coach K noted. “He talks enthusiastic, rim runs, really runs the court well and plays good defense.”
He did all that and more during his 70-game stint with Brooklyn last season, averaging 7.4 points (eighth among all NBA rookies) on a league-best 66 percent shooting among first-year players.
He also grabbed 4.4 rebounds, collected 0.70 steals and blocked 0.79 shots a night.
And if you like these new analytics the kids are using today, Plumlee ranked first among all qualifying rookies in efficiency rating (19.0), win shares (4.7) and true shooting percentage (67.0%). He also played more minutes per game for a team that finished the regular season over .500 than any other rookie.
Unknown to many Nets fans who followed this tournament from back home, Plumlee was actually taking his second shot at his first gold.
Back in his early days as a collegian, the Fort Wayne, Indiana native helped Team USA’s Under 18 squad reach the championship game of the World Cup, only to suffer a tough loss to Argentina in the final.
This time, he got exactly what he wanted from the international experience, as well as some things he can carry into Year Two with the Nets.
“Just every day [working] with some of the best players in the world, you pick up things in practice, workouts and games,” Plumlee revealed. “We just had a good time and I took a lot away from it.”
Nothing But Net: With Lopez returning from offseason surgery after participating in only 17 games a season ago, Nets GM Billy King continues to bring in depth at the pivotman’s position. King announced Wednesday morning that the team had signed free agent C Hamady Ndiaye. Ndiaye most recently played for Senegal’s national team in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and spent part of the 2013-14 season with the Sacramento Kings. In 14 games with Sacramento, Ndiaye totaled six points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in 74 minutes of play. He also played two games last season with the NBA Development League’s Reno Bighorns on assignment from the Kings, and after being waived by Sacramento in January, the 7’0” center spent 15 games with the D-League’s Delaware 87ers. The Rutgers alum will join fellow big man Jerome Jordan, whom the Nets inked last Thursday.
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