Gregg Popovich: Denver Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee is the “Ultimate Teammate”
LAS VEGAS – As the USA Men’s Basketball Team held its first official practice Monday, Mason Plumlee was hard to miss. In typical fashion, he was active – hustling, setting screens and making impactful plays on both sides of the court.
Plumlee isn’t as heralded as some of his teammates and is the only player who doesn’t start on his NBA team, yet Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich believes the veteran center could potentially be a valuable cog on the USA’s FIBA World Cup roster.
“He is one of those, I call them, utility-type infielders. They’ll do whatever is asked, “Popovich said on Monday. “He plays good defense, he rebounds, he runs – he’ll do whatever it takes for his team to win. He’s an ultimate teammate and that’s why he’s here.”
Though Plumlee is a reserve to All-Star center Nikola Jokić, he was a key contributor for a Nuggets team that won 54 games last season – tied for second-most in franchise history. He’s a player whom head coach Mike Malone often calls a starting-caliber player in the NBA and prior to joining a deep Nuggets team, he had 203 starts in his career. In 22 minutes per game last season, Plumlee averaged 7.8 points, 6.4 rebounds. He was also an underrated passer as a big man, adding three dimes per contest, one of only nine centers to do so. He said his inclusion on the training camp roster is an acknowledgment of just how good the Nuggets were last season.
“It says a lot about our team and the respect Denver earned this year,” he told Nuggets.com. “I always say that players look good on good teams so I’m just a benefactor of that.”
Plumlee’s USA teammates also took notice of his work ethic.
“Mason comes out rebounds, plays hard and runs the floor,” Brown said. “He does the little stuff.”
Plumlee is one of 17 hopefuls who are aiming to make the final 12-man roster that will head to China to take part in the FIBA World Cup. He admits the opportunity came as a surprise but he’s hoping to showcase why he deserves another stint with the stars and stripes. Plumlee previously won a gold medal with the team in 2014 at the FIBA World Cup.
“It should be a good week and all you can do is throw yourself into it and play your best,” Plumlee said.
If Plumlee makes another World Cup roster, he believes it would be one of the highest honors of his seven-year professional career.
“It’s a dream [to make the team]. I’m 29 years old, I’d feel like I’m nine years old [if I make the team],” Plumlee told Nuggets.com. “I think any time you can make a team like this you got to pinch yourself a little bit because it’s just a special opportunity and it’s something I’d never forget.”