Lionel Hollins sure is pleased with the way things are lining up for Mason Plumlee, knowing just how much the big man’s offseason development will greatly benefit the Nets.
Earlier this week, Plumlee was officially added to USA Basketball’s 2014-16 national team roster and was named as one of the 16 finalists for this year’s World Cup Team. Plumlee seems to have a legitimate shot at making the team, and playing for the United States at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which tips off later this month in Spain.
“It’s a great opportunity. I was in Vegas with Mason,” Hollins told Newsday Wednesday in a phone interview from Africa, where he's participating in the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program this week. “I was going to the practices. I talked to Coach K and Jerry Colangelo. Everybody is high on him. He’s a young player that has a big future in him. We’re expecting big things from him and so this experience of playing with some of the best players in the league and in this setting, and have the opportunity to be in a formal environment in the summer … .
“As you’re working and conditioning, the discipline of going through what they have to go through and have the opportunity to make the team is not the same as going into the gym and lifting weights and shooting at a pickup game. So I think for him, the experience is very beneficial. I talked to him and he’s excited.”
Hollins said it’s all about seizing the moment, and with players like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin an LaMarcus Aldridge opting not to play, that’s what Plumlee has done. He’s vaulted himself into contention and might be in line to make the team over DeMarcus Cousins.
“You never know when an opportunity presents itself,” Hollins said, “and one presented itself to him in Vegas and he grabbed it, he’s run with it and I wish him the best of luck. And I hope that he does make the team, but if he doesn’t, it’s been a fabulous experience and fantastic summer for him.”
Plumlee has been working on his jumpshot this offseason, trying to expand his offensive repertoire so he can extend his game beyond striking distance of the rim. Sure, alley-oops are nice and all, but Plumlee struggled mightily from the perimeter in his rookie season, going 0-for-11 from 8-feet out. The rest of his 290 shots were in closer proximity to the basket.
With hopes of possibly playing alongside Brook Lopez at times in his second season, the ability to knockdown a jumper to keep the defense would go a long way in seeing that come to fruition for Plumlee. But Hollins isn’t ready to proclaim whether Plumlee will slide over to the power forward spot at any particular juncture just yet.
It’s something that would have to pass the eyeball test.
“I don’t know,” Hollins said. “I don’t want to put limitations on players, but what’s the difference between a ‘five’ and a ‘four?’ They are two inside people. I just don’t see the need to label players that way. We’ll see when we start training camp, and we start doing what we are doing, and how he fits in and we’ll go from there.”