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Saturday, August 23, 2014
Plumlee waits for Team USA final cuts

By Mike Mazzeo

NEW YORK -- Mason Plumlee didn’t sound like a guy who’s going to get cut.

Probably because he’s almost assuredly not going to get the axe.

The Brooklyn Nets’ second-year big man will find out on Saturday morning if he’s one of 12 players chosen to represent Team USA in the World Cup -- and all indications are that he’s going to make the squad.

“Everybody’s waiting, everybody’s a little on edge,” Plumlee said Friday night after scoring four points, grabbing five rebounds and getting two steals in Team USA’s 112-86 exhibition victory over Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s been a great experience, and whatever happens, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work out with the team. Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, it’s been great.”

Plumlee capped off a dominant second half by Team USA with a one-handed breakaway dunk in the closing seconds. It wasn’t his best showing by any means -- he struggled to defend pick-and-rolls a bit -- but his overall body of work since being promoted from the Select Team during training camp has been solid.

On Thursday, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Plumlee had emerged as a favorite of Mike Krzyzewski, his former coach at Duke, to be one of the final 12. If you read between the lines, all four players who were DNP-Coach’s Decisions on Friday night -- Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan -- were all believed to be on the bubble, so there’s a distinct possibility they will be the ones staying home while the other players board a Saturday night flight for Europe. Team USA opens up the World Cup on Aug. 30 against Finland.

Nets officials were already excited Plumlee’s inclusion on the Select Team, because he would be able to practice and learn from some of the best players in the World. Now, it appears that he’s going to spend even more time with them.

Asked why he was a good fit for the squad, Plumlee said, “I’m a mobile, athletic big that can get out defend, play with energy and then just [I have] an understanding of the game, getting guys open, setting screens, rebounding. Kinda doing the stuff big men should do. That’s what I tried to show them this time, and I hope that’s what they saw.”

Said teammate James Harden: “He knows his role. He just goes in and plays hard, he rebounds and blocks shots. He talks on defense, he goes in there and gives us energy. Even if he doesn't play, he cheers for the team and those are players we need going forward.”

And to think, Plumlee was told when he first began practicing with the Select Team that none of the players were going to get brought up. But things ended up working out a little differently than expected.

“It’s been a positive experience just to work out with the older guys,” Plumlee said. “It really opened my eyes to get to play with a lot of talent and pick things up from other guys, so it’s been a lot of fun.”