As the Nets wrapped up a second day on the practice court in Durham, one player spent a bit more time at work, traversing his old stomping grounds. As veteran big men Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez filed off the practice court, rookie Mason Plumlee continued taking reps on the far side of the gym.
For about ten minutes, Plumlee fired off short-range jump shots from various spots inside the three-point arc before he quickly rehearsed a few run-and-dunk moves that he previously used to bring the crowd at the adjacent Cameron Indoor Stadium to its feet one year ago.
Plumlee dominated beneath the basket for the Duke Blue Devils during his senior season, but he knows that he must add to his game to flourish in the NBA. “Bigger, faster, stronger,” is how Plumlee described his new competition. “Guys are better athletes.” The Nets picked Plumlee 22nd overall in June’s NBA Draft, but he knows he will need more than pure athleticism to stick in the league.
“That’s coming along well,” Plumlee said of his developing jump-shot. “I've gotten a lot of reps this off-season. Just something that’s comfortable now.” After largely focusing his offensive efforts on post play in college, he expressed an unfamiliar willingness to play away from the glass. “If I'm open I'm taking it. They are going to go in.”
Nets head coach Jason Kidd expressed confidence in Plumlee’s readiness to play in the NBA. “He’s 7 feet. Anything by the basket, he’s ready,” said Kidd, who also expressed confidence in the rookie’s developing mid-range shot. “He wants to get better, and he has a chance. We have a great one in him.”
Plumlee’s teammates have already noticed his contribution to the team after just a few days at camp.
“Mason was great,” said starting shooting guard Joe Johnson. “He has a great personality, but on the court he’s very athletic, very energetic, and he gets up and down the floor great. We need him flying around, blocking shots, rebounding making it tough for the opposing team.”
Point guard Deron Williams believes in Plumlee’s NBA potential following his college experience at Duke. “I think any time when a guy goes to school for four years, plays for Coach K for four years, he's going to be semi-ready for the NBA.” Still, he says Plumlee will face growing pains. “Of course, he's still a rookie. He's still got a lot to learn.”
General Manager Billy King thinks the composition of his veteran squad gives Plumlee a chance to get up to speed quickly. “A rookie in this situation, to have a Kevin Garnett, to have a Paul Pierce, to have this veteran group, I think this will help his career where he will be in this league for a long time because he will get a foundation that not a lot of rookies get.”
Plumlee knows it will take time to become part of what the Nets want to do on the court. “We’ll see how camp goes, and I’m just gonna be ready to play whatever Coach needs me to do. Big thing I think is just bringing energy, because a lot of guys have been doing this for a lot of years, and you just want to bring a breath of fresh air and keep guys on their feet.”