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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Miles Plumlee has been up and down 14 times this season between the Pacers and their D-League affiliate, the Mad Ants.

Plumlee thrives as player on two teams

Another February night in one of the many cities that do, in fact, sleep, and here is the most curious of sights: Miles Plumlee, stationary.

He’s sitting at the corner locker just outside the shower room, bare feet splayed out in front of him. It’s a few minutes past 9:30, and it hasn’t been a good night for either Plumlee, a 6-10 rookie out of Duke, or the Mad Ants for whom he plays; Sioux Falls has just spanked the Ants 106-99, and Plumlee, going up against Miami Heat send-down Dexter Pittman, scored two points and took three rebounds in just shy of 20 minutes.

That’s not what he’s being asked about, though.

He’s being asked, this least-stationary of rookies, about how “Miles” could be short for “Mile Marker 273,” given how many times he has seen it this winter on his trips up and down I-69 from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne.

Plumlee all but shrugs.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn,” he says. “But at the same time it’s difficult to try and be a part of two teams.”

Other than that, he says, no, he hasn’t yet woken up and not known which city he was in, though it’s understandable that he might. With his latest recall Monday, he has been up and down between the Pacers and their D-League affiliate in Fort Wayne 14 times this season – including six times since Jan. 16.

Assigned to Fort Wayne the 16th; recalled the 21st. Assigned the 31st; recalled the next day. Assigned again Feb. 4; recalled a week later.

Rinse. Repeat.

So what on Earth are the Pacers doing with this kid, besides plumping up his odometer?

Turns out they’re doing exactly what they said they would do when they took Plumlee with the 26th pick in the draft last spring, then told him up front he’d be spending a fair bit of time in Fort Wayne this year.

The consequence, Mad Ants coach Duane Ticknor says, is that Plumlee and fellow Pacers rookie Orlando Johnson came north the first time feeling not betrayed, but exhilarated.

“These guys came here and were excited to be here,” Ticknor says. “They didn’t view it as a demotion. I think the (Pacers) front office deserves a pat on the back for that.”

And Plumlee, who’s averaging a double-double (11.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg) in Fort Wayne? “I think it’s gonna make me a better player in the long run,” he says.

So does Ticknor, who acknowledges the difficulty of trying to blend into two locker rooms (“He may practice in the morning for the Pacers and play for us that night,” he says) but says that the more time Plumlee spends in Fort Wayne, the easier that becomes.

“I think now that he’s been with us for 15 games he feels part of our team, and I think our team accepts him. We’re so used to seeing him now,” he says. “And this is a chance for both him and Orlando to actually get playing time. They’ve sent us a couple of pages of things they want us to work on, but the main thing is just getting some game experience.

“I think the biggest thing is he knows he’s getting a chance here. You know, down there Miles is going against David West and (Roy) Hibbert and those guys every day and just getting beat up, and then he comes down here to have a little bit of success and try to get that swagger back.”

It’s worth the trip. Or rather, trips.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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