Marshall Plumlee received a phone call from a Knicks staffer on Sunday morning with a request he wasn't expecting.
“Hey, we need you to guard Dwight Howard" was what Plumlee heard on the other line.
The rookie center was a bit surprised, to say the least. He had played for the Knicks’ D League team, the Westchester Knicks, Saturday night and he planned to play for the team again Sunday afternoon. But Knicks starting center Joakim Noah was scratched shortly before tipoff due to illness. So the club needed another center -- immediately.
Plumlee reacted quickly. He lives near a Metro North train station in Westchester, a county that borders New York City to the north, so he boarded an express train to Grand Central. He pulled in to the station at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue and jumped into a cab to head to Madison Square Garden on 33rd and 7th Avenue.
Time was of the essence, so Plumlee said he paid a cab driver a $60 tip to run a red light. The traffic was brutal, so Plumlee eventually got out of the cab and started running to the arena.
“Sprinting through the city,” he said. “I got here, they said, ‘Hey, do you need a warmup?’ I said, ‘No, I’m already warm. I ran here.’”
Plumlee arrived at the arena midway through the first quarter. He suited up and made his NBA debut in the second quarter, defending Howard. He ended up playing 5:36 and grabbing one rebound in the Knicks' win over Atlanta.
Quite an eventful Sunday for the ex-Duke big man.
“It was crazy," he said. “I feel I could write a book about it."
Big deal: The Knicks’ backup bigs filled in admirably for Noah, who is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Portland. Kyle O'Quinn and Willy Hernangomez combined for 15 points and 16 rebounds in 46 minutes.
Hernangomez also caught an elbow from Howard in the final minutes. It seemed like a cheap shot.
“They told me about that but I didn’t feel anything,” Hernangomez said. “Maybe he feels pain in his elbow.”
O'Quinn and Hernangomez also helped the Knicks hold the Hawks to 40 percent shooting. Kristaps Porzingis said the staff did a good job preparing the Knicks for Atlanta.
“The coaches did a really good job of telling us the things that they will do, to be ready for them. I think we were ready for the stuff that they normally run,” he said. “Myself, too, I didn’t go for no pump fakes. I stayed on the ground. Those little things help us defensively, keep the percentages lower.”
Jennings-Rose backcourt: Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose helped the Knicks score 47 points in the fourth quarter of their loss Thursday to Washington. Jeff Hornacek likes what the Jennings-Rose backcourt brings on offense. But he has questions about its defense.
“It gives us maybe a little more attack when Brandon’s roiling like that. He can attack from one side and Derrick can attack from the other side,” Hornacek said. “You’ve got your shooters out there. But again, it’s got to work both sides. So it’s been OK. It was all right the other night. But we want to try to probably be more traditional, I would say, in our positions, but again we’re trying to figure that out.”