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Plumlee steals spotlight from Davis in win

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Although New Orleans Pelicans superstar forward Anthony Davis brought all the fanfare, Nets rookie Mason Plumlee delivered all the results Sunday night at the Barclays Center.

Plumlee shined in the Nets’ 93-81 rout of the listless Pelicans. Plumlee erupted for a career-high 23 points, including 12-points and an emphatic block in the second quarter. He also hauled in a game-high 13 rebounds.

Davis tallied 24 points and nine rebounds but never gave his team a chance. The Nets exploded out to an early lead and never relinquished it.

Despite a trying season featuring its fair share of highs and lows, inquiring minds can consider Plumlee an unquestioned bright spot. The rookie center has amassed 10 DNP-CDs, but he’s making the most of his 15 mpg.

“He’s a rookie, so he’s going to have his ups and downs,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s got a great group of guys in the locker room who are always going to help him make the game as easy as possible.”

Kidd and the coaching staff bequeathed a virtually non-existent role to the rookie, but he plays in much the same way as Reggie Evans. Unlike Evans, though, Plumlee can play above the rim and convert his free-throws. His offensive proficiency makes him a valuable piece going forward for an aging team bereft of big men.

Plumlee emerged as a long-shot to originally make the team. With Brook Lopez, Andray , Blatche, Reggie Evans, and a newly-acquired Kevin Garnett, Plumlee seemed destined for the D-League. Injuries, age, and a mortifying start to the season opened up a door for the Duke product.

“As a player, you always prepare to play,” Plumlee said. “You have your own vision of how things are going to happen, and I know on draft night they said, ‘Oh, they have Dray, they have Brook.’ I’m just like, ‘I’ll be ready to play when they need me and try to earn some minutes and we’ll go from there.’ I don’t think Jason Kidd or Billy expected me to play too much, so I’m just grateful they gave me the opportunity to earn their trust on the floor.”

Those qualities fail to escape the Brooklyn locker-room’s veterans.

“I’ve seen the growth and maturity from Mason that we’ve all been waiting for,” said Jason Terry, whose locker sits right next to Plumlee’s. “Early on he played a lot then he didn’t play as much, so his confidence kind of went a bit. He was down on himself but I told him to just keep working. The opportunity will present itself again and just be ready.”

With Lopez a question mark due to multiple right foot surgeries, Plumlee’s presence buoys the second-oldest roster in the league.

“Any time we can rest our older guys, it’s no secret we’re old, this is a win in a couple ways,” Plumlee said.

Even with a 27-point lead, the Nets’ starters managed to allow the Pelicans back into the game. Late in the third quarter, the Pelicans pulled within seven points despite trailing by nearly 30.

Kidd went back to Plumlee and the rest of the bench, and the Nets cruised to a comfortable win. With Plumlee in the game, the Nets outscored the Pelicans by 14 points.

The Nets need a spry big man too. Garnett, who played just 13 minutes after sitting out Saturday night’s blowout loss to the Detroit Pistons, can only play so many minutes. These days, about 20.

Kidd refused to look into the future and pass the crown to Plumlee just yet, though.

“We’re just going to enjoy tonight,” Kidd said. “We don’t have a crystal ball, but clearly he has youth, athletic ability, fresh, young legs... and you can see the hard work he’s put in.”


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