New Hornet Miles Plumlee
Miles Plumlee had a clue he was headed back to the state where he played high school and college basketball.
“I knew that there had been some talks for a week or two, but I had no idea that it was actually going to happen this soon,” Plumlee said Friday of the trade that sent him from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Charlotte Hornets.
Plumlee got the word at practice Thursday when a Bucks basketball executive told him to check his phone for messages. The Hornets sent Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes to the Bucks, and they took on Plumlee’s four-season, $50 million contract.
Plumlee is a known quantity in North Carolina. He played high school ball at Christ School near Asheville before heading to Duke. This is the fifth season of an up-and-down NBA career.
Plumlee was at the fringes of the Bucks’ rotation, starting occasionally. He averaged 2.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 10 minutes a game this season.
In Charlotte, Plumlee, who is 6-foot-11 and 249 pounds, will back up center Cody Zeller. Part of the incentive for this trade, according to coach Steve Clifford and general manager Rich Cho, was the physical similarities between Zeller and Plumlee.
“I think he plays like Cody, and that’s a natural fit for us. The other thing is the physicality. He plays with a hit-first mentality and I think that can help us also,” said Clifford, who has had concerns about his team’s physicality.
Clifford said the Bucks play a player-movement offense that fits the strengths of their best players. The Hornets play more pick-and-roll basketball in mostly one-in/four-out formations. That is a style similar to how the Phoenix Suns played when Plumlee had his best NBA season.
That was in 2013-14, when Plumlee averaged 8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 25 minutes.
Zeller’s best NBA talent is his speed and quickness rolling to the basket. He and guard Nic Batum have great chemistry in the pick-and-roll. Plumlee sees similarities between himself and Zeller, and believes that’s an immediate plus.
“I’ve watched the way he comes out of the pick-and-rolls and they hit him (with passes) in stride. He’s athletic and big,” Plumlee said of Zeller, who will miss his sixth consecutive game Saturday with a quad contusion.
“It will be easy, with the guys having that feel for him, for me to do some of the same things. It should help the transition quite a bit.
“It’s definitely a different system and different players than Milwaukee. I think it should be pretty natural for me, as far as what I’ve had success with in the past.”
Plumlee has two brothers who also played at Duke and are in the NBA. Mason Plumlee plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. Marshall Plumlee was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Knicks.
Miles Plumlee was at Hornets practice Friday, but couldn’t participate because all the physicals connected to this trade weren’t completed. But he’s excited about this change.
“It’s no secret I wasn’t really playing there, so it was a big breath of fresh air,” to move from Milwaukee to Charlotte, Plumlee said. “It was a great learning experience with the Bucks. I thank them for everything they gave me. But I’m excited to be here now.”
Clifford: Hibbert couldn’t stay healthy
Clifford was very excited last summer about the potential value of adding Hibbert, particularly as a rim protector. Hibbert was great in his Hornets debut, totaling 15 points, nine rebounds and five blocks against the Bucks in October.
But one of Hibbert’s knees swelled after that game, and he was never completely healthy the rest of his time with the Hornets.
“I remember leaving the arena that night saying, ‘We’ve got something here.’ ” Clifford recalled Friday. “People don’t understand that having a basket protector is a big deal.
“He’s just never been healthy. He’s had games where he felt better, but never 100 percent. Maybe he needs a couple of months or a summer (to get his body right). He did everything he could.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell