- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Initially, Mason Plumlee was bothered by critics who said he was only called up to Team USA because he played for coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
But that criticism no longer fazes him.
“At the end of the day, [the critics] just don’t know,” Plumlee told reporters Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets' practice facility. “If anybody knows Coach K, he didn’t get to where he is by doing favors for people. He’d be the first person to get me out of there if I wasn’t cutting it. He’s all about winning, and by playing for him for four years, I know that. Now, I have an advantage in knowing what he’s looking for from me, but he didn’t win gold medals, he didn’t win world championships by doing favors for people. It’s just that simple.”
Plumlee, who played in the Summer League and was only supposed to be part of the USA Select Team at first, survived the first round of cuts Tuesday. Sixteen players remain for 12 spots on the World Cup roster, and many believe Plumlee has a great shot at making the team -- including himself.
“I have a very good chance,” the 24-year-old said. “I had a strong week of practice and we’ll have a whole month to show more. To me, there are maybe five, six, seven guys that are locks, and then the rest are playing for those last couple spots. It’ll go to whoever fits what Coach wants best.”
Plumlee, who is entering his second season in the NBA after leading all rookies in field goal percentage and player efficiency rating, may not be as talented a player as Andre Drummond or DeMarcus Cousins, but he might be a better fit for the team.
Plumlee has been dreaming about the opportunity to represent his country on the biggest stage since he was a boy.
“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It’s a dream, every kid’s dream to play for the national team. I’m growing up and it’s still my dream. It would mean a lot. I’ve had family fight for the country. I appreciate the sacrifice those people have made, and that’s why I’m really looking forward to the whole experience."
Plumlee said the coaches initially told the Select Team members that no one would have a chance to get called up.
“They sat us down on the Select Team the first day and said, ‘Look nobody’s gonna get pulled up. Don’t come out here coming at guys,’” Plumlee said. “Because younger guys, you make it about me against [Kevin] Durant or me against Kyrie [Irving]. They’re like, 'This isn’t that. Just play as a team. You’re here to get us ready to play the international guys,' so it was just the opposite, but then they had 19 so they decided to pull one up.”
Plumlee quickly impressed in practice and had 10 third-quarter points after getting off to a poor start in Friday night’s scrimmage.
Plumlee is looking forward to playing for Coach K again. He says Coach K doesn’t treat him any differently now that he’s a pro.
“He’s still gonna look at you and tell you how you need to play and that’s that,” Plumlee said. “Overall, it’s different because you can’t talk to pros the way you do college guys, and you don’t need to now. You don’t have to tell Derrick Rose to play hard. You might have to tell us in college or when we’re freshmen in high school you gotta play hard each day. His level of expectation doesn’t change. You’re just working with a better product.”
9dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford