Rookie Net: Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee drives to the basket during the team's NBA basketball training camp at Duke University in Durham. Photo: AP
Mason Plumlee had curved his body and long limbs into a folding chair and was saying how cool it was having star teammates, when his eyelids began to droop and flutter.
The sudden sleepiness hit him from nowhere, making him lose his train of thought. He swallowed a yawn, gathered himself and apologized.
"I've got to get here and lift and work out before everyone else gets on the court, or else I won't get my reps," he said. "But I'll be good. I'll be OK."
Plumlee, 23, a 6-foot-10 forward, holds a noteworthy place with the Brooklyn Nets, who stocked up on aging stars like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko in an off-season overhaul to try to chase a title. Plumlee is the team's only rookie, providing him with a priceless learning opportunity and a fascinating challenge.
It has been a whirlwind so far - a tiring one
Through training camp, Plumlee scheduled early wake-up calls to his room so he could beat his teammates to the gym. It was advice passed to him from his brother Miles, 25, who played 14 games as a rookie last season with the Indiana Pacers.
"In practice, I'm not on the floor half the time," Plumlee said. "But when my number's called, and it will be called, I can't say, 'Well, I didn't practice.' There's no excuse."
Plumlee averaged 17.1 points, 10 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and earned second-team all-American honors as a senior at Duke. He was the Nets' first-round selection, the 22nd pick overall. The destination was a surprise. Perky Plumlee, Mason's father, said the family had expected him to be picked much higher. Plumlee said he had worked out for around 15 teams, but not the Nets.
Since then, Plumlee has found the New York City area easy to embrace. He secured an apartment in Jersey City, and last month his parents drove over from their home in Indiana, made a run to Ikea and stayed up all night assembling furniture in his living room. He laughed at the idea that he was not all that different from other recent Duke graduates.
"All my friends at, like, Goldman or JP, they're doing the same thing, getting to work early, leaving late," Plumlee said, referring to Goldman Sachs Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co. "We'll get together on a weekend, and it's like. ..." Plumlee slumps his shoulders, exhales and laughs, wordlessly finishing the thought.
Plumlee played for the Nets' summer league team and provided one of the tournament's early highlights when, during a game against the Detroit Pistons, he spun into the lane and made a thunderous two-handed dunk over his defender. It underscored the notion that his athleticism - his ability to run the court and leap - was his best trait.
His father said Mason's best trait was his determination. Of his three sons - a third brother, Marshall, 21, plays for Duke - Perky said Mason was the most focused and tenacious. Before he was old enough to play on the local grade school team, he insisted on being the manager. As a little leaguer, he taught himself how to throw different pitches by reading a book. He was an elite swimmer before junior high school, attending 6 a.m. practices. But he also squeezed in time to shoot basketballs before school.
"This may sound boring," his father said, "but Mason was a very obedient kid."
The tenacity has come in handy. The Nets held their training camp in Durham to get away from the distractions and news media attention in New York. But Plumlee was perhaps the one player who found no respite.
Before the first practice, Nets coach Jason Kidd told Plumlee to introduce Kidd's counterpart at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski, to his Nets teammates. After the first couple of practices, Plumlee was surrounded by TV cameras. Each day thereafter, he did interviews with student reporters and local news media.
He was in all likelihood the most interviewed Nets player over five days, and in between, he made time to see his old teammates, coaches and teachers, as well as his younger brother.
"If we would have gone anywhere else, I would haven't have been talked to at all," Plumlee said, laughing.
Above all else, he has tried to adjust to the professional game. He has had to digest the idiosyncrasies of the Nets' system - learning the language they use on the court - while also being expected, as the rookie, to run errands for his teammates. Playing time will be at a premium, but he wants to be ready.
"Like I told him, 'listen first, slow to speak,"' said Jason Terry, a 36-year-old guard.
The demands, it seemed, were unending. After practice Friday, Plumlee held a microphone and interviewed general manager Billy King on camera for the Duke athletic department website. ("That was good!" Plumlee said to King afterward.)
After that, it was another camera, another lengthy interview.
It was midafternoon, and the gym was mostly cleared out when his one last obligation was winding down. His eyeballs by then looked glassy. His gaze was growing distant, and his speech was becoming clipped.
When the interview ended, he smiled. He announced that he would take a nap.
New York Times