Mason Plumlee returns to Durham with Brooklyn NetsMichael W. Krzyzewski Center has been a normal occurrence for the past four years. But Monday, Plumlee traded in his Duke blue for black and white.
With the Brooklyn Nets' training camp being held at Duke, Plumlee was awarded the opportunity to start his NBA career back at the school where he averaged 17.1 points and 10.0 rebounds as a senior in 2012-13.
Although he's back at his old stomping grounds, the new Brooklyn forward is in Durham to work. His first challenge is catching up to players who already have a familiarity with each other and the coaching staff, all while adjusting to a quicker pace at the professional level.
“It’s a lot of talking through things, terminology, picking stuff up," Plumlee said. "Especially with [Nets assistant coach Lawrence] Frank—some of the guys played with him in Boston, so some guys have a feel for him. I have to be sharp mentally and pick up what they’re saying."
The forward also understands that there are things he can learn off the court that will help him stick in the NBA. Brooklyn's veteran-laden roster includes eight players with eight or more years of NBA service, including six with 10-plus years and two with more than 15 years in the league.
"Watch how they take care of their bodies," Plumlee answered when asked how he'll learn from the big men on the Brooklyn roster. "Watch what Kevin [Garnett] would do after workouts, before workouts, even before the season got going. Picking up what they do is valuable."
Plumlee said that during his rookie season, he knows he will not be the focal point of the offense like he was during his collegiate career. Instead, his role will be running, rebounding, bringing energy and playing defense. Though Plumlee has much to learn about the NBA game, he's already impressed some of his teammates.
"He’s very athletic, alert and energetic—and that’s what we need from him—flying around, blocking shots, rebounding and making it tough on the opposing team," Nets guard Joe Johnson said.
One of Plumlee's biggest fans thus far is a guy he hopes to spell frequently on the court this season—starting center Brook Lopez.
"He’s been great," Lopez said of Plumlee. "One of his goals personally is to be coachable, you know, get out there and bring energy off the bench and do what’s required of him. He’s definitely done that in spades so far. He’s a great athlete, moves well for a big man, has a good motor and obviously his basketball IQ—being from Duke and being a smart player—is through the roof."
Although reviews of Plumlee have been positive so far, he is still a rookie on one of the most veteran squads in the NBA. After selecting Plumlee with the 22nd pick in June's NBA draft, Brooklyn did not have a second round pick. The only other rookie even on the team's training camp roster is guard Jorge Gutierrez, a roster long shot who went undrafted out of California in 2012 before playing last season with the Canton Charge of the NBA Development League.
Regardless of how many rookies are on Brooklyn's roster, being a 6-foot-10 kid with a multi-million dollar contract makes you a pretty easy target for some rookie hazing. Even though Plumlee was quick to point out that he was kind to the freshmen when he was an upperclassman at Duke, his new NBA teammates don't seem to care.
"[The veterans] are giving me a hard time," Plumlee said. "Kansas plays Duke this year so I was hearing it from [Tyshawn Taylor] and Paul [Pierce]."
Chatter about alma maters was the least of Plumlee's worries this week, however—he has been presented with a list.
"He is a rookie, and unfortunately he is one of the few rookies on this team, so he has to carry that list," Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd said. "I heard it was an expensive list too."
Plumlee may be the lowly rookie right now, but as a Blue Devil, he has achieved something that all of his teammates, new and old, strive for each and every day.
"I have seen him on a lot of championship pictures around here," Lopez said. "It makes me a little jealous in that regard."