A year ago, Mason Plumlee celebrated his 23rd birthday by being honored at Senior Night and helping Duke to a blowout win over Virginia Tech.
His 24th birthday on Wednesday came as he made his third straight start at center for Kevin Garnett, who is suffering from back spasms. The same injury cost Andrei Kirilenko 25 games at the start of the season.
In his two starts for Garnett, Plumlee has played 33 minutes and totaled 11 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 5-of-6 from the field.
“He’s been good with his energy,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “The big thing with him is coming with a lot of energy. He got in foul troble in Milwaukee but he kind of solved that problem with Chicago.”
Plumlee scored all of his points on dunks and has a 36-inch vertical leap but his most significant contribution was applying some of the defensive lessons he learned from Garnett, highlighted by a key first-half block on Joakim Noah.
“Everybody, they hang on every word he says,” Plumlee said Monday of Garnett. “He’s vocal and guys respect what he says. They might not respect me the same way so I’ve got to say it louder and more often [when] making the calls defensively.”
Ex-Knick Udrih draws praise
Beno Udrih’s time with the Knicks was more memorable for his back-and-forth with head coach Mike Woodson than his time on the court. His stretch as a backup guard on the league’s most dysfunctional team ended when he was waived Feb. 24.
Three days later, the Grizzlies claimed the 31-year-old to serve as a backup to Mike Conley. Udrih has yet to appear in a game but the Grizzlies were able to get him into his first practice on Tuesday.
“We just want him to get comfortable first,” Memphis head coach Dave Joerger said. “He’s got such a high IQ. He sits with Mike Conley and dissects it when Mike comes out. I’m happy to have him, [and] happy to have his experience.”
Udrih appeared in 31 games for the Knicks after signing a one-year deal with them last offseason.
He had two notable clashes with Woodson on Dec. 25 when he said, “Don’t just be a coach, be a person,” when he was blamed for late-game execution against Washington on Dec. 16. He was also blamed for passing to J.R. Smith for an ill-fated game-winning 3-point attempt in Houston on Jan. 3 when the Knicks needed a two to tie.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.