Green, Plumlee enjoying enlarged roles on new team
The Pacers shook up their roster in late July, in a trade to acquire Luis Scola. Team president Larry Bird had been intrigued by Scola’s game for years and when he was made available, Bird went after him. In acquiring the 6-foot-9 power forward, he got rid of Gerald Green’s contract, worth $7 million over two years, a 2014 first-round pick, and had to include Miles Plumlee, a young talent they thought highly of.
Green and Plumlee played back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the only time this season. It was fun, especially for Plumlee, who learned the ropes of the NBA last year with the Pacers. They are now playing key roles on the Phoenix Suns, the most surprising team in the NBA. For a team thought to finish in the lottery and quite possibly land a top pick, they’re sixth in the uber-competitive Western Conference. Coach Jeff Hornacek has done an excellent coaching job, which now has them 28-18 after a 102-94 win over the Pacers Thursday night.
There was shock when the news hit the two guys in late July, a couple months before training camp. But there wasn’t any trouble adapting to life in Phoenix.
“Adapted? We’ve been adapted,” Green said with a big grin. “It’s like summer time all year round. It’s 80 degrees, you can wear shorts everyday, you don’t have to worry about shoveling the snow. It’s a good life.”
Green’s playing time with the Pacers was limited and when he played, he shot less than 37 percent from the floor. He failed to provide the Pacers with scoring and spark off the bench, and he knows it.
“Last year I was in a tough position,” he explained. “They had two players, in Paul George and Lance Stephenson, that were emerging into All-Stars. With the core that they had last year, it was working. It was the system that was working and got us all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That was something that the team stuck with.
“I was just so inconsistent. Instead of me mentally staying in it, I was putting too much pressure on myself. I knew how good we were last year and if I played good, we could’ve been that much better.”
Like every other Pacers player on last year’s squad, Green believes they were just 12 minutes from beating the Miami Heat and moving on to the Finals.
“I’ve always felt like I was a part of the team,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t playing, that team didn’t make me feel like I was any less than anyone else and that’s a great feeling.”
Over the summer, he changed his workout regimen. He got away from pickup games and stuck with individual workouts. He stated that he worked harder than ever and had his best offseason yet.
“I worked my butt off once I got traded,” Green said. “I took that as motivation. I wanted people to understand that I’m not just a guy that’s going to lay down. … No, I want to get better and want to be the best basketball player I can be.”
He believes that he’s enhanced his game, now as a starter on a team that features a high-tempo offense he is better suited for. Just don’t expected him in anymore dunk contests.
“No, absolutely not,” he said. “I’m done with that for the rest of my career. That’s the old me. I’m trying to create a new chapter in the book.”
And even more than 7,000 miles away, he cheers on his former team — just not when they meet. When the Pacers were out in his territory last week, he went out to dinner with Paul George. Last night, he visited George at his new Geist residence.
Plumlee is at a different stage of his career. Just 25-years-old, his NBA career is still fresh. He has started every game for the young, but competitive Suns, whereas with the Pacers, he was the last guy on the roster and typically inactive. Opportunity to grow and develop his game has been huge for his young career.
“You got to get a chance play, otherwise there’s not a whole lot you can do,” he said before playing the Pacers. “It’s more than that. I definitely developed last year as a player and got a lot better over the summer. That combined with the opportunity to play has served me well.”
Plumlee spent much of his summer in Indianapolis, training at the Fieldhouse and playing a big role on the Pacers’ Summer League team. After the trade, however, he moved to Arizona to focus on his new team and the second-year player appreciated having Green, a familiar face, with him.
In his first year, which was limited to just 14 games, Plumlee hung out with fellow rookie Orlando Johnson a lot. Thursday morning, before their respective teams square off, Johnson had Plumlee over for breakfast.
“Me and OJ are really, really close going through the rookie season together,” said Plumlee. “Roy’s been in touch and he’s definitely helped me out a lot.”
The Indiana-Phoenix deal has been one of the rare win-win situations for both teams. The Pacers got a guy they’ve been targeting for a half-dozen years, a savvy veteran that would start on many teams. Conversely, the Suns received a first-round pick, a young talent with plenty of upside, and a guy that can score in bunches. Like Green, Plumlee stays in contact his ex-teammates and isn’t surprised by the Pacers’ success this season.
“Not at all,” he added. “They’re a phenomenal team, playing at a really high level and could win it all.”