As the NBA’s regular season comes to an end, the Brooklyn Nets are preparing for their first round matchup against the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. Star rookie and Nets center Mason Plumlee shared his sentiments about his first pro season. Plumlee is currently ranked third on the Rookie of the Year ladder and entered the public consciousness after his game-winning block on the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. He has been dubbed a huge steal, drafted in at number 22 but becoming a key contributor to the Nets’ winning season.
Q: What have been the major differences between playing college basketball and being in the pro league?
A: Off the court, there’s a lot more free time. I don’t have to look forward to class, so I spend the same amount of time in the gym, but when I’m not in the gym I have all day free. When I’m not traveling I come home and have to find something to do to stay productive. On the court has been an easier transition for me. Although everyone is a bigger, better and stronger athlete, the way the NBA game is officiated I think has suited my style of play very well.
Q: How would you describe your experience as a rising star during NBA All-Star Weekend?
A: I had no idea how much fun All-Star Weekend was going to be. All the guys told me I should want to make the rookie sophomore game because it’s a blast. My teammate Joe [Johnson] let me go down there with him on his plane, so I felt like a real All-Star even though I was in the rising stars game. All the same, it was a good time. My brother was there and a couple of my friends came.
Q: How did you work toward the goal of being a participant in All-Star Weekend as a rookie?
A: What really got me there was the opportunity I’ve had on the court. Jason [Kidd] decided to play me and gave me a chance to prove myself. From there, I had good enough numbers to get invited.
Q: Your hustle on the offensive glass got you a nice spot on the NBA rookie ladder for the 2013-14 season, how do you react to all the news about your chance of being the rookie of the year?
A: It’s an honor to be considered for it. I would be surprised with my numbers if I won it, but at the same time to be in that conversation is always a privilege.
Q: What are your thoughts on Jason Kidd as a coach? How has he influenced your development this season?
A: Jason’s been great. I think he has figured it out quick as a coach. He has always had control of the locker room. Everyone respects him. He has brought me along very well, always had good communication with me in letting me know exactly what he wants. He’s easy to play for.
Q: What would you say is your biggest weakness as a player? What mistakes do you often make on the court?
A: I would say the biggest thing right now is just knowing the coverage. Defensively I’ve improved throughout the season, but the terminologies and schemes are a lot different in the NBA. When you have a Carmelo Anthony, James Harden or a Kevin Durant on offense, guys that are just pure scorers, you have to know how to help efficiently.
Q: Besides your teammates, what other NBA players influence your game?
A: My brother [Phoenix Sun’s Miles Plumlee] is an influence on my game. I watch how he scores on teams and the opportunities he gets, and I look for the same ones when we play the opponents he’s played.
Q: With the season wrapping up, how do you feel you have improved as a rookie playing on a team with so many veterans? What have you learned from them?
A: First of all, [Kevin Garnett] and Paul [Pierce] have been the best in terms of work habits. Their regimen doesn’t change, win or lose, start of the season or end of the season. They get to the gym at the same time and are just very professional about how they handle their business. That’s the main thing I’ve taken away from them. But, at the same time, they have been very helpful in talking to me about how I spend my free time, how I carry myself on the road trips and how I spend my money. So, unlike most veterans, they have a lot of interest in what I’m doing outside of the team. Having guys who are really in their prime like Deron [Williams] and Joe [Johnson] on the court, I can learn from them. I pick up things from everybody, but those two guys in particular have played really well at this stretch, and they’ve helped me with my game, too.
Q: What team do you think will be the toughest to beat in the playoffs, besides Miami?
A: First of all, I don’t think Miami will be the toughest to beat. I think the Pacers will be the toughest, because so far when we’ve played them we haven’t been able to figure them out and win. We are 4-0 against the Heat, so I think that matchup, just based on the regular season, looks better. But, in a series with Indiana, I think we’d figure it out.
Q: What do you think has been the most vital strategy that has gotten your team to the playoffs?
A: The biggest thing is we went small in January. We started playing four guards. Paul has really stretched the defense and opened things up for the other perimeter players. We’re getting our rotations down now, and guys are comfortable with their minutes. So, overall, we’re really hitting our stride going into the playoffs.
Q: How have you worked to prove yourself a s a rookie on a veteran team, on and off the court?
A: They definitely give me lots of opportunities to prove myself. They have a lot of extra stuff I have to do. Carry bags, make them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before the game, a lot of little errands to run on the road and things to keep me busy. If you get their towels, bags and water for guys it’s not so much about that, but Paul knows if I can remember to get him a towel after every game then I can remember to rotate on help on defense, so it’s really bigger than the towel, you know?
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 15 print edition. Aicha Fall is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]