Duke draftees Kelly, Plumlee begin NBA odysseys

lkeeley@newsobserver.comJuly 6, 2013 

Not long ago, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee finished up their four-year careers at Duke.

Sunday, their NBA careers will informally start on opposite coasts.

Plumlee, drafted No. 22 overall by the Brooklyn Nets, will suit up for the summer league in Orlando. Kelly, still recovering from postseason foot surgery, flies out to Los Angeles to join the Lakers, who drafted him in the second round with the 48th overall pick.

Both Plumlee and Kelly were ultimately drafted by teams they had not visited for private workouts. Plumlee spent the month before the June 27th draft on the road, living out of a gym bag and not stopping at home at all. He had 11 stops: Washington, Phoenix, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Portland, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Utah. The final stop of Plumlee’s travels was to the draft itself, which was held in the Nets’ home arena, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“I was very glad that I went,” Plumlee said. “I know I didn’t go as high as I thought I was going to go, but just being there and being able to shake David Stern’s hand, and then the draft was in the building I’m going to play in, so that couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Kelly, who has been sidelined since having surgery on April 9 on his right foot (the same one that caused him to miss 13 games during the season), watched the draft at his Raleigh home with friends and family.

He had been invited to the combine and met with teams there before visiting the Bulls, Clippers and Hawks. Kelly and his agents, Jeff Austin and Alex Saratsis at Octagon, felt like he would be drafted. They just didn’t know exactly where.

Early on draft day, though, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke with Kelly and foreshadowed what was to come.

“I had talked to Coach K earlier in the day and he had said that he had talked to (Lakers) coach (Mike) D’Antoni,” Kelly said. “He said they had been very high on me and seen me play a lot.”

Watching the draft was nerve-wracking, Kelly said. Once his name was called, though, friends and family went “berserk,” he said, screaming with joy.

“I’m pumped,” Kelly said. “Coming from a program like Duke, winning is expected. That’s not the case with every team or organization in the NBA, they don’t expect to win every year. But you certainly expect to win if you’re the Lakers. Those kind of expectations I’ve had for four years now, and it’s cool to be able to continue that.”

Kelly has begun transitioning his workout from an underwater treadmill to the basketball court. There is no timetable for his return, and he plans to base it off of how he feels.

Plumlee was also pleasantly surprised with his destination and the opportunity to play with veterans like Kevin Garnett. Finding an apartment near the team’s New Jersey practice facility is on his to-do list, he said. On Sunday, though, his focus will be on the court.

“You always want to go somewhere where you’re wanted,” Plumlee said.

It seems like both he and Kelly have found that.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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