Plumlee offers Bucks some insurance at center

Newly acquired Bucks center Miles Plumlee played 15 minutes in his Milwaukee debut Sunday against Atlanta and 14 minutes against Chicago on Monday.

Caylor Arnold/Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — As he rattled off the future at each position, Jason Kidd pointed out how the Milwaukee Bucks are set with young pieces at point guard, small forward and power forward.

"Then we have a committee at the five," Kidd said.

While Michael Carter-Williams was the centerpiece and Tyler Ennis the prospect in the Bucks’ three-team trade with Phoenix and Philadelphia, Miles Plumlee fills a need on Milwaukee’s roster.

Plumlee gives the Bucks insurance at center in the aftermath of the buyout of Larry Sanders.

"Whatever Coach wants," Plumlee said. "I’ve always been someone who does what the team needs. I’m going to play hard, play defense and rebound. I love protecting the rim. I can score on offense as well."

Plumlee is on his third team since being drafted No. 26 overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2012 NBA Draft. He played sparingly as a rookie with Indiana, playing a total of 55 minutes in 14 games.

An offseason trade to Phoenix opened up an opportunity, as Plumlee started 79 of the 80 games he played during the 2013-14 season, averaging 8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

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Plumlee began this season as the starting center for the Suns, but Phoenix eventually replaced him in the starting lineup with former No. 5 overall pick Alex Len in December.

"I knew there were a lot of possibilities, but I don’t think anybody really knew anything for sure," Plumlee said of being traded. "I didn’t get a text until after 1 o’clock (PST on the deadline day), so I thought I made it and I was still on the team. Then one by one we kept getting texts and guys kept getting up. It was kind of crazy."

The Bucks have struggled to rebound consistently all season, whereas Plumlee is an above average rebounder capable of helping Milwaukee on the glass. His overall rebound percentage (15.2) and offensive rebound percentage (10.6) would be second behind Zaza Pachulia on Milwaukee’s roster, while his defensive rebound percentage (19.7) is third behind Pachulia and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Plumlee’s offensive game is almost exclusively around the rim, as 77.5 percent of his made field goals this season have come from less than five feet. John Henson is no longer the only big man capable of blocking a shot, as Plumlee can play above the rim (his vertical was measured at 40.5 inches at the 2012 combine) on offense and defense.

"Miles is athletic, not afraid to bang," Kidd said. "He can play above the rim and block shots. He helps us in that category. He comes from Duke and understands how to play team basketball."

Plumlee is no stranger to Wisconsin, as his mother, Leslie, attended Neenah High School before playing collegiately at Purdue. His uncles, Chad and William Schultz, played their college basketball at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Eau Claire.

Along with his younger brothers Mason and Marshall, Plumlee grew up in Indiana. Mason currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets, while Marshall is a junior at Duke. Plumlee’s younger sister, Maddie, is a sophomore volleyball player at Notre Dame.  

"I’m sure they will be taking me out and showing me around," Plumlee said of his family in Wisconsin. "My family is from Neenah, so we came here a lot growing up. I’ve always liked Wisconsin."

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It remains to be seen how big of a role Plumlee will play with the Bucks, but Kidd has proven he will play each player on his roster throughout the season. Henson will continue to start at center, while Zaza Pachulia will be the primary backup.

Plumlee played 15 minutes in his Bucks debut Sunday and 14 minutes against Chicago on Monday. At minimum, the 26-year-old will provide Milwaukee with insurance at center, something it hasn’t had since Sanders left the team.

"I’m a chemistry guy first and foremost," Plumlee said. "I don’t want to mess that up. That’s part of the winning situation here.

"I think they have great teamwork and great chemistry. They play with a lot of energy. That takes you a long way in this league. Kind of like the Suns team last year, we play together and play hard every game. It is hard to get that going, but once you have that you have something special."

Bucks give thoughts on Sanders: Once the buyout of Sanders became official, his former teammates became willing to share their thoughts on a situation that hovered over the team for two months.

The Bucks agreed to officially part ways with the troubled center Saturday. Sanders will reportedly walk away with $15 million, in addition to the $7.2 million he was paid this season, of a $44 million extension signed during the summer of 2013.

"I feel bad for him," Bucks forward Jared Dudley said. "The man gave up a lot of money. So obviously there are some issues he has to handle. You have to keep him in your prayers. You wish him the best. Basketball is only a small percentage of your career, but when you work so hard you want to be able to reap the benefits of your fruit.

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"But everyone goes through tough times. Everyone has some demons. That’s with everyone in life. You understand it . . . I would love to see a great story where he comes back and has a great career. He is young. Maybe the best thing is to get away, get a fresh start and handle what he needs to handle."

Like Dudley, O.J. Mayo is concerned about the well-being of his former teammate.

"As a guy in this locker room, one of our teammates and one of our brothers, we want to make sure that he is healthy, first and foremost," Mayo said. "Put it in God’s hands, man. Hopefully a higher power above takes care of him. That’s all you can ask for him. You just want to pray for him and hope he gets healthy."

Sanders hasn’t spoken publicly since Jan. 6, but he has posted numerous pictures on Instagram, including one with this caption:

"Just a man with a dream. Call me what you want I’ve made a way for myself and the ones I love through my hard work and dedication. Everyone has struggles . . .  I’m not neglecting that or trying to avoid it. But my ‘flaws’ are easily spotted because that’s all you’ve been shown about me, and while that may seem unfair my concern is not what you think of me but what God thinks of me. I choose to build my castle where no name can destroy or tear it down. That’s where you’ll find me."

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