Plumlee Looks Back on a Wonderful 2013 Draft Night

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins

BROOKLYN — Mason Plumlee expects to sleep soundly Wednesday night, the eve of the 2014 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.

Last year? Not so much.

He arrived at Barclays Center last June 28 certain of only one truth: The draft is a crapshoot.

He had worked out for 15 teams and was told he’d be off the board by No. 20.

Plumlee tried to ignore that chatter. He did not listen to sports radio or watch any ESPN channel. He stayed off social media.

Nothing was going to spoil the night for Plumlee, who had been dreaming of hearing his name called for as long as can remember.

“I didn’t have a table,’’ Plumlee said. “I wasn’t in the lottery. I wanted to come anyway. David Stern’s last draft. I wanted to wear the suit, tie, walk across the stage.’’

Done, done and done. Wearing a navy suit with a pink shirt and a matching pink and navy tie, Plumlee was flooded with emotions when Stern stepped to the podium and announced that “with the 22nd pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, your Brooklyn Nets select Mason Plumlee from Duke University.”

“I was just like, Man, I don’t know anything about Brooklyn,’’ said Plumlee, who did not work out for the Nets. “But I was excited. I had some preconceived notions of other cities.

“My family said, ‘At this age, at this time of your life there’s no better place. Being in the city is going to be a lot of fun.’ And then I experienced that in my rookie year.’’

Plumlee’s rookie season was a bona fide success, capped off by his selection to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He averaged 7.4 points on 65.9 percent shooting and 4.4 rebounds in 18.2 minutes.

Plumlee, now 24, said he intends to watch Thursday night’s draft. He’ll get to revisit some of the emotions he experienced a year ago, especially when his good friend and fellow Duke alumnus, Rodney Hood, is drafted.

The Nets don’t have a first-round pick although G.M. Billy King has said he is interested in obtaining one. Plumlee has an ulterior motive for hoping the Nets get a pick because then, “I won’t be the only rookie,’’ he joked.

Plumlee will first have to clear that with veteran Kevin Garnett who said Plumlee is a rookie until the first game of the 2014-15 season. 

Regardless, the Nets lone rookie has been busting his rear end, adding muscle to his 6-11, 235-pound frame, range and consistency on his mid-range game, and gaining a better appreciation for Brooklyn.

“I love all the different neighborhoods,’’ Plumlee said. “I go down to Williamsburg; it’s a great time. This summer I’ve gotten out there more than I did this season. I go up to Prospect Park. I’ve gotten to know the area a little bit so it’s been fun.’’

It’s been a fun ride since the moment Stern called his name. His rejection of a LeBron James’ dunk attempt at the buzzer preserved an 88-87 win on April 8, the highlight of Plumlee’s rookie season.

Plumlee maintained from the day his name was called that he deserved to go higher in the draft. He scoffed at predictions that he’d spend most of his rookie season in the NBA D-League.

Less than an hour after getting picked, Plumlee got a warm welcome from King, coach Jason Kidd and point guard Deron Williams, which helped ease any disappointment.

“I was thinking I was going to go a lot higher,’’ Plumlee said. “But then you have guys like that, they’re like, ‘Look, you’re right where you need to be. This is perfect.’ I was like, Alright.’’

It’s turned out that way. Plumlee now can laugh at what he thought was his draft night blunder.

He knew the Nets had reached an agreement with the Boston Celtics to acquire Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, but since the trade wouldn’t become official until mid-July, no member of the Nets could comment.  That rule didn’t apply to Plumlee.

When Plumlee was brought in to face the media, the majority of questions he received focused on his thoughts of playing with KG and Pierce. Plumlee answered honestly, fearing he would get his new team fined.

“As soon as I’m drafted I do something wrong, but whatever,’’ he said with a chuckle.

Plumlee did no wrong. The night couldn’t have gone better. Brooklyn Nets fans were thrilled with the pick, giving Plumlee a rousing ovation.

“It was very cool,’’ Plumlee said. “What really made it special was I had most of my family there and most of the people cheered. You’re always wondering what kind of reaction you’re going to get.

“Being in Brooklyn was not what I was thinking about falling asleep that night. Obviously it’s worked out for the best. I couldn’t be happier that I’m here.’’