INDIANAPOLIS – Miles Plumlee is completely comfortable with being an object of scorn.
He did, after all, play for Duke and that kind of thing happens to Blue Devils now and then.
The Pacers took Plumlee with the 26th overall pick in the draft, and Twitter was suddenly full of comments from fans who mercilessly ripped one of the final touches on Larry Birds tenure as team president.
Plumlee, who played at Warsaw before moving to North Carolina during high school, expects the sentiment to change.
Fans are fans, they want whats best for the team, he said Friday. I totally understand. Im excited because Im going to be able to contribute here. I think theyll learn to love me down the road.
Incoming team president Donnie Walsh said he remembers being booed when he drafted Chuck Person and Reggie Miller. Person was rookie of the year and Miller is in the Hall of Fame. He expects Plumlee, while a much different player, also will prove doubters wrong.
It always amuses me that people judge the draft the next day, Walsh said. Theyve not seen the guy play, theyve not seen the him play within the team. Ive always thought, well, lets wait til next year, and see how this all turns out, see if hes a good player, if he fits in, if hes everything were looking for. I dont really take much from what the immediate reaction is.
Plumlee landed back home in Indiana on Friday. The 6-foot-10 forward met the local media and held up his new No. 13 jersey for photos.
I couldnt be more excited to play for this team, he said. Watching them, theyre up and coming. Theyve already built such a strong program. Im used to winning. I love winning. Thats why I went to Duke. I know theyre going to be great, and I want to be a part of that.
Plumlee is athletic but a raw offensive player. He averaged 6.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game as a senior. He shot 61 percent from the field but played only 20.5 minutes per game and started just 16 of 34 contests his final year. Plumlee said he is a capable scorer who was not required to shoot much at Duke.
I know I can contribute in other ways, he said. What I did at Duke is not indicative of who I am as a player entirely. Ive got more to offer, and Im excited to show Indiana what I can do.
Plumlee understands that he is not expected to post big scoring numbers.
I know my role, he said. I dont think the adjustment is going to be as difficult for me. I went through that coming out of high school, going into college. I know what it takes to be part of a team. Im willing to assume any role they want.
Miles will practice with former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough. The two never matched up – Hansbrough was a senior All-American while Plumlee said he was learning that year as a freshman. Still, Plumlee remembers Hansbrough well and looks forward to battling him in practice.
Hes a warrior out there, he said. Im excited to learn from him.
Plumlee grew up well aware of Birds status as an Indiana legend. Knowing Bird, who is leaving the Pacers at the end of August, wanted him meant a great deal.
Hes one of my heroes, Plumlee said. Hearing compliments from Larry Bird on who I am as a player feels great. My confidence is through the roof right now.