PHOENIX, Ariz. — Most would balk at being traded from a championship-contending team to one vying for more ping pong balls in the NBA draft lottery.
Not Miles Plumlee.
As rough as that slide down the NBA standings will be after leaving Indiana, the new Phoenix Suns center now finds himself with something not afforded to him in his prior stop: Playing time.
Plumlee appeared in only 14 games, logging a total of 55 minutes, in his rookie season. He could see half that amount of court time in the Suns’ season opener Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
With the recent trade of Marcin Gortat and offseason ankle surgeries slowing rookie Alex Len, Plumlee has emerged as the most viable big man for the Suns.
“I mean, it just shows you how crazy this business is,” Plumlee said. “Same thing in college. Your opportunity could come any day, so I’ve just been working hard from the moment I got drafted last year to this point. It’s paying off, and now an opportunity has shown itself. I’m going to be ready.”
While others may have considered him a throw-in in the exchange for Luis Scola, the Suns did not. General manager Ryan McDonough personally scouted the 6-11, 255-pound former Duke captain in the Orlando Summer League, where he averaged 10 points, 9.5 rebounds and three blocks in 27 minutes per game only weeks before the trade.
“Since the moment I’ve gotten here, I haven’t held back,” Plumlee said. “I’ve made mistakes, but I’m just really going for it because I know they have that confidence in me, and they see what kind of potential that I have. And I believe the same thing: As long as you’re making aggressive mistakes, you’re going to play well.”
He made an immediate impact upon his arrival in the Valley, impressing both coaches and teammates with his athleticism, hustle and determined style of play — all of which were on display at the team’s training camp scrimmage at Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff on Oct. 5. Plumlee scored 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. He closed out the preseason with an 8-point, 10-board performance in 26 minutes at Denver, a 98-79 Suns win.
“He’s worked on his shot, his moves; (his) post-up moves have really improved,” said head coach Jeff Hornacek of Plumlee, who averaged 6.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in seven preseason games. “I think we always thought of him as a guy who was going to roll hard to the basket. He’s going to rebound. He’s athletic. I think he’s getting a better understanding (of the game). (But) he really hasn’t played a whole lot.”
Again, that’s about to change.
Plumlee, for the foreseeable future, is the Suns’ 2013-14 starting center.
“It’s a basketball game; just come in a little earlier,” he said, smiling. “Same approach for me as I’ve been using these other games and I’ve gotten better each game. I think I’ll just continue to do that.”
Plumlee said he’s also looked forward to hearing his name called during pregame introductions.
“That’s a little different,” he said. “It’ll be fun. But once the ball goes up, it’s basketball. You never know what’s going to happen. I was working for any opportunity that would come my way.”