Duke’s Mason Plumlee finding role with Nets

CorrespondentJuly 14, 2014 

— The NBA has slowed down a bit in Mason Plumlee’s second year, but there’s still a blur around the former Duke power forward.

When the team’s flight to Florida for the NBA Summer League touched down, players learned that coach Jason Kidd was headed to Milwaukee, quickly replaced by former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins.

“I was blindsided. Defensive end coming off the (edge) ... I had no clue,” Plumlee said of Kidd’s abrupt departure from the Nets after one season. “I was very surprised. I think everybody was.”

Having not met Hollins when the week started, Plumlee has played well in Orlando, averaging 18 points in his first three games and showing how much he’s worked to be a better shooter in his second season. He shot 18-of-24 (75 percent) in those games, showing a willingness to step outside and hit mid-range jumpers as well.

“All week, I’ve been looking to score – not force anything, let the game come to be but to be aggressive in my spots,” Plumlee, 24, said after a game at the Amway Center. “I’m ready when I’m open. That’s something that’s going to be there, and it’s going to open up my game.”

The Nets continue to tinker with their lineup, acquiring guard Jarrett Jack from Cleveland, adding to an established veteran core that includes stars Kevin Garnett (38), Joe Johnson (33) and Deron Williams (30).

Plumlee averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds last year, earning first-team All-Rookie honors, and was perhaps best known for blocking a LeBron James shot with 4 seconds left in a one-point April win that finished a four-game regular-season sweep of the Heat.

Plumlee, whose older brother Miles is entering his third NBA season with the Suns, finished the regular season strong, averaging 14.3 points in his final seven games. His role diminished in the playoffs, however, and he played just two minutes in the final three games as the Heat eliminated the Nets in the second round.

The 22nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, Plumlee was able to play more than expected as a rookie because Nets star Brook Lopez missed all but 17 games with a foot injury. The 6-foot-11, 235-pounder understands he’ll be a role player again (“We’ve got some $20-million men on the team,” he says), but he is making an impression on his teammates with his summer play.

“He’s doing what we knew he could do,” said guard Marcus Teague, another NBA reserve leading Brooklyn’s team in Summer League this week. “He showed signs of it during the season last year, and he’s coming out here and dominating like he’s supposed to.”

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