Nets' rookie Mason Plumlee returns to his Duke roots
Mason Plumlee practiced Tuesday morning on the Krzyzewski Center courts, just as he has regularly for the last four years.
Only this time, when he was done, Plumlee walked off one of the courts, smiled, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Mike Krzyzewski.
Now that he’s a Brooklyn Nets rookie, and the intense practices Krzyzewski put him through on these courts are in his past, Plumlee’s old coach is a friendly spectator.
Plumlee, the former Duke all-ACC center, and the rest of the Nets began training camp on Tuesday on Duke’s campus.
The Nets, featuring NBA all-stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, will be in town through Saturday, using the basketball facility named after the Blue Devils’ Hall of Fame coach as their own.
For Plumlee, it’s an added touch that makes his entry into professional basketball a little more comfortable.
“I’m glad that we came to Duke,” Plumlee said. “This is a great facility to have a training camp.”
The 7-foot Plumlee planned to watch the Blue Devils practice Tuesday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium, in between the Nets morning and afternoon practices at the adjacent Krzyzewski Center.
He also planned to visit with his younger brother, Duke redshirt sophomore center Marshall Plumlee.
Other than that, as the Nets’ lone draft pick last June, Plumlee has a list of tasks to complete for the team’s veterans. He is sworn to secrecy, but his coach, former NBA all-star guard Jason Kidd, offered a hint or two.
“He is a rookie,” Kidd said. “Unfortunately he is one of the few rookies on this team. So he has to carry that list. I’ve heard that it is an expensive list, too. I wish him luck.”
Some of his teammates talked Tuesday about the lack of activities in Durham, especially compared to New York City.
But Plumlee, who worked out with some teammates in Los Angeles earlier this summer, said that is a good thing.
“That’s probably why we came down here for camp,” he said. “We already did the LA thing this summer. This is more about basketball. I’ll show them the Chapel. But Cameron is the landmark of Durham. I’ll show them that and we’re back to practice.”
In practice, Plumlee is adjusting to a new level of basketball. Last season at Duke, he was a second-team All-America pick after averaging 17.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
“Just everybody is bigger, longer, stronger,” Plumlee said. “I won’t say faster because you’ve got some quick kids in college. But everybody is bigger and stronger.”
The Nets, following a blockbuster trade with Boston during the offseason, have the league’s highest payroll and a veteran roster filled with all-stars. That said, Kidd believes there’s a place for Plumlee to contribute.
“He’s 7 feet so anything near the basket, he’s ready,” Kidd said. “But I think also he’s developed a jump shot. He is a guy that can shoot the 15-17 foot jump shot. He’s comfortable out there. But he’s NBA ready because he wants to get better. He’s not satisfied. You don’t find that a lot in this league. But we have a great one in him in that sense.”
Like Plumlee, Kidd has experience playing for Krzyzewski. Kidd was part of U.S. National teams at the FIBA Americas championships in 2007 and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Krzyzewski coached both teams to gold medals.
Krzyzewski spoke to the Nets Tuesday morning and Kidd said he was only glad to have him “give us some of his wisdom.”
“Coach K is real,” Kidd said. “He is real honest. He’s about being honest with his players. That stands for a lot. If you ask Mason or the Grant Hills of the world, they could always call him and get an honest answer. That says something about a person in his position.”
When Plumlee was a team captain for Krzyzewski at Duke last season, he tried to take it easy on the underclassmen, choosing not to take advantage of his veteran status. Unfortunately, he said, he’s not receiving the same treatment from his older Nets teammates now that the situation has flipped on him.
“I wasn’t too hard on the young guys as a senior at Duke,” Plumlee said. “But it’s not like they are nice to me. Nobody gives a damn if I was nice to the freshmen at Duke. They’re okay, but there are definitely some things you’ve got to do. It’s a pain sometimes. I’ve only been in town about 18 hours. It’s a lot of chores.”