Welcome to Miles Plumlee's calendar: It's Friday, so this must be Fort Wayne.
If there were such as things as frequent driver miles, Plumlee would be a gold card member. He travels from Indianapolis, where he's a rookie with the Pacers, to Fort Wayne, where he's a rookie assignee with the Mad Ants. Then he goes back the other way. Sometimes, he almost passes himself.
“It's just a little chaotic, more so than it is for any rookie, and it's already a chaotic business for any rookie,” Plumlee said. “I think if I can get through this, the rest of my career should be lot easier.”
Plumlee, a 6-foot-11 center and Warsaw native who played college basketball at Duke, has appeared in 14 games with the Mad Ants and seven games with the Pacers. He'll be in uniform when Fort Wayne (14-16) plays Rio Grande Valley (17-10) at 7:30 tonight at Memorial Coliseum.
During his time with the Ants, Plumlee has seven double-doubles and is averaging 11.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He's had a high of 28 points against Springfield and 17 rebounds against Maine.
Plumlee puts the “development” in the NBA Development League.
“The Pacers have been very upfront and I've appreciated everything they've done for me to develop me to be the best player I can be for them down the road,” Plumlee said. “Right now, it's a situation where there's not much playing time (with the Pacers) and I see that. I'm happy to be able to do something in the meantime to get better.”
It's not always easy for players to adjust to being assigned to the D-League. The Pacers had not used Fort Wayne, despite an affiliation, during the first five Mad Ants season. That changed with new Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard, coach Frank Vogel and a veteran Pacers roster.
Earlier, Plumlee and guard Orlando Johnson both played for the Mad Ants. Johnson has since worked his way into the Pacers' regular playing rotation.
“Credit Pritchard and Vogel with the Pacers for sitting down with these guys and explaining the whole situation, even before the season started,” Mad Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. “They gave them reasons why they're coming and gave us stuff to work on with them. (Assistant coach Steve Gansey) sends reports every game to the coaching staff and front office, and they respond back. It's been a win-win situation for both of us.”
Besides Plumlee and Johnson, the Ants have had assigned players from the Milwaukee Bucks (Doron Lamb is in town this week) and Detroit Pistons (Khris Middleton and Kim English).
Plumlee has played the most games of any assigned player with the Mad Ants, and said he feels a part of both the Pacers and Mad Ants. “I don't feel like I'm just visiting” the Ants, Plumlee said.
“It's definitely a challenge trying to be part of two teams and stay acclimated with all the plays, but I think I'm becoming a better player because of it,” Plumlee said. “It makes you mentally stronger.
The Pacers have mentioned the improvement of Plumlee and Johnson since their time with the Ants. Johnson has averaged 11 minutes per game with the Pacers since his brief time in Fort Wayne.
“One thing they said they notice more than anything when those guys get back is their confidence level is up,” Ticknor said. “Of course, you're not getting beat up by (Roy) Hibbert and David West every day.”
Ticknor said he feels Plumlee's best attribute is his emergence in the team concept with the Ants.
“Winning is important to him,” Ticknor said. “He's more about winning than himself. Monday night, here's an assigned NBA guys playing 36 minutes and taking only six shots. That tells you he's focused on winning. The Pacers are happy. We're happy. It's a good relationship.”