Center Mason Plumlee emerges as Pistons ‘glue guy’

Detroit News

Rod Beard | The Detroit News

In Tuesday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Pistons had several bright spots, including Jerami Grant tying his career high with 32 points. Delon Wright had 22 points and nine assists.

Somewhere down the line is another standout performance, from a player who often is overlooked in the Pistons’ big wins and tough play this season.

If it were anyone else, it might be more noticeable: 14 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals.

That’s not Blake Griffin or Isaiah Stewart. It’s Mason Plumlee.

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Plumlee has been something of a lightning rod for Pistons fans, because many of them see him as the Pistons’ choice above trying to re-sign Christian Wood, who went to the Houston Rockets. They’re two very different players, but since Plumlee’s arrival this season, he’s been very much himself — a hardnosed defender and rebounder who can put up some surprising numbers.

The numbers bear it out: 9.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 59% shooting — all above his career averages.

“Mason is a great facilitator and obviously a great rebounder,” said Grant, who also played with Plumlee last season with the Denver Nuggets. “He can finish a lot of plays. We’re still a new team, so he’s getting more comfortable and playing at a high level.”

In the last four games, Plumlee has been much better, with 14.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and shooting 66% from the field. More than that, he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble.

As Stewart has taken more of the backup role and getting increased playing time, it’s been easier for Plumlee to not have to play large minutes, but with the injury to Jahlil Okafor, the Pistons might have to get more creative in figuring out how the center rotation will work.

However that turns out, none of the centers has the same production that Plumlee has this season with the mix of rebounding, passing and scoring at that position.

“(Plumlee) is a quarterback at the center position. He’s smart; he knows how to play and knows angles. He’s a valuable piece; he’s a glue guy,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s a guy that you always want on your team. I’ve gotten so many texts from coaches around the league who say you have a good one in Mason. We’re glad to have him.”

The Pistons have struggled this season with trying to establish consistency and with the new additions getting more comfortable with each other and learning how they play together on the court.

Though they started only 6-18, the Pistons have played the top teams in the league tougher than some other teams, which is getting closer to the consistency they seek. After back-to-back double-digit losses at Utah and Phoenix, the Pistons turned it around with a close double-overtime game against the defending-champion Lakers.

“The Phoenix  game was not good, by any stretch. We’ve had less of those (blowouts), which  I could count maybe on one hand,” Plumlee said. “My evaluation coincides with how our team does. I feel like we’re getting better. Coach has said it to us a couple times: it hasn’t shown itself in wins, but we’re a better team than we were a month ago, and that’s the most important thing right now.”

All-star voting

In the second round of All-Star fan voting, Grant remains in 10th place among frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference. Grant had 282,605 votes in the latest returns, about 70,000 fewer than the Charlotte Hornets’ Gordon Hayward.

The fan voting counts for 50% of the selection process, with the media and players making up the other half.

Former Pistons guard Derrick Rose was in eighth place among guards, with 342,177 votes, about 24,000 behind the Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton.

The All-Star Game is scheduled for March 7 in Atlanta.

Pistons at Celtics

Tipoff: 8 p.m. Friday, TD Garden, Boston

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Celtics have struggled since opening the season as one of the favorites in the East, but they still are in the No. 4 spot. They are coming off a western road trip in which they went 2-3.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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