Before the season, team general manager Billy King acknowledged that Nets rookie center Mason Plumlee would likely spend most of his time in Springfield, playing with the team’s D-League affiliate Springfield Armor. King said this during Brooklyn Nets training camp at Duke University, both his and Plumlee’s alma mater.
Two weeks into the season, Nets second-year forward Tornike Shengelia has been shuffled back and forth from Springfield so much he may lead the league in Springfield Marriott points. But Plumlee’s name has been wholly absent from the Armor roster. Plumlee’s cracked a real spot in the team’s rotation, playing first-half minutes in the team’s last three games and putting up a breakout performance Saturday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, amassing 19 points on 7-10 shooting, all near the rim, and adding six rebounds in 26 minutes. He’s made ten of his last thirteen shots, all exclusively around the basket, showing off his 36″ vertical combined with his seven-foot frame on an array of dunks and reverses.
Plumlee’s cracked a spot in the team’s rotation out of equal parts energy and necessity. It’s true that Plumlee is eager to attack the rim, and his athleticism allows him to put down what would be awkward finishes for Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic. And with Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett out Saturday night, Plumlee was bound to see extra time on the floor.
But the 22nd overall pick has also getting minutes because the team’s other big men, other than Brook Lopez, aren’t performing up to snuff. The Nets power forwards, from Garnett down, have been abysmal; all three are shooting under 34 percent from the field thus far, none of them are getting or making free throws at a respectable rate, and the long-range shooting Teletovic has missed all nine of his three-point attempts. Blatche hasn’t been anywhere near the revelation he was last season, and has nearly as many turnovers (21) as field goals (28).
If the Nets had the Kevin Garnett of old, if they had last season’s breakout Andray Blatche, if they had the best of record-setting rebounder Reggie Evans, the high blips in Plumlee’s production wouldn’t register on anyone’s radar. And therein lies irony of Plumlee’s solid start: it’s only able to exist because the team is 3-6.
But no matter how good his production gets, when it comes to the locker room, he knows the pecking order. Via Andrew Keh of the New York Times:
“Obviously, I knew I was going to get more minutes with the …” Plumlee, a 23-year-old center, was saying Saturday night, when Andray Blatche’s voice cut in from across the room.
“Hey, Mase,” Blatche said as he slipped out the locker room’s back door. “Don’t forget to get the waters and Gatorade.”