PHOENIX — It’s not hard to link the Marcin Gortat trade with Washington to the premise that Miles Plumlee was more than a throw-in to the trade that involved the Suns shipping Luis Scola out to Indiana.
Forgive the comparisons, but here they are. On Wednesday, Gortat came off the bench in his Wizards’ debut to score nine points and tally nine boards in 19 minutes, while Scola netted six points and two rebounds in his second game with Indiana.
Meanwhile in Phoenix, Plumlee started alongside Channing Frye and put in 18 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. As expected, he was effective in sucking in the Portland defense, and though Phoenix went 0-for-8 from deep in the first half, it recovered to shoot 4-for-11 in the second.
As much Plumlee’s rolls helped Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe shoot a combined 19-for-33 (58 percent), the point guard duo also helped Plumlee.
“I feel like I’m going to find easy things from Goran and Eric,” Plumlee said. “So I didn’t focus on (searching for shots) but once I started to get a couple of buckets, and I saw I had a little advantage with my speed, it was nice to see the ball come to my hands a few times.”
Hornacek said Plumlee doesn’t need plays drawn up for him — a rim-rattling, one-handed dunk early on came off a pick-and-roll with Bledsoe. That said, Plumlee has improved so much the Suns did call some to get him touches on the low block, where he continued to show a soft hook shot with left and right hands.
“Miles, you know, he’s just an athletic guy, you don’t have to run a lot of things for him,” Hornacek said of Plumlee. “It’s basic basketball. You roll to the basket hard, you have guards who can pass it, you’re going to get some stuff.”
That said, the underlying story was the second-year center’s defense. He played 40 minutes — he played 55 all of his rookie year — and only picked up one foul despite seemingly appearing on help defense every time he was needed.
“Every game is different,” he said. “I wasn’t in a lot of ISO situations with a big. In terms of my straight-ups (blocking attempts), I’ve been working on those a long time. I think that’s key. If you do it properly, you shouldn’t get a lot of fouls.”
Plumlee said he’d been working with assistant coaches Mark West and Kenny Gattison. But nobody quite expected him to replace Gortat, Scola and thensome. Of course, he knows he’ll have to keep it up. It should stay steady if his work ethic — the thing that moved him up the depth chart — continues to take him where he wants to go.
“That’s all it is, working every day,” Plumlee said. “The game slows down when the ball is in your hands. You go to the same moves you’ve been working on before and after practice.”