It was Oct. 20, 2016, and the Portland Trail Blazers had just won a preseason game against the Utah Jazz. The specifics of that game are not important, and have already been lost to history. What has not been lost, will never be lost, is what was prophesied at the game’s conclusion. “The growing question among the Trail Blazers is not whether center Mason Plumlee will record a triple-double this season,” began NBC Sports’ game story, “but how many.”
One-thousand five-hundred and seventy-eight days after that sentence was published, we must now take stock of how Plumlee, now a member of the Detroit Pistons, has answered the question that was once growing (and growing) among the Trail Blazers. How many triple-doubles has Plumlee racked up in the 486 games he’s played since their inevitability was described all those years ago? As of last night, the answer is one. He now has one triple-double.
In a 123-112 victory over the Pelicans Sunday night, Plumlee recorded the first triple-double of his career by scoring 17 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing 10 assists. Let’s see those highlights:
Nice! There were certainly 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists accumulated in those plays, all of which added up to make Plumlee the oldest center since Patrick Ewing to record his first triple-double.
Did you notice all of the Draymond Green–like passing and playmaking that Plumlee put on display? Well, that’s exactly what Damian Lillard must have been envisioning when, nearly five years ago, he said of Plumlee’s game, “It’s kind of what Golden State does with Draymond Green. He gets a lot of assists getting the ball in the middle of the defense and making that decision.”
Surely you noticed Plumlee’s heightened feel for the game. It’s that very same feel, or basketball IQ, that caused C.J. McCollum to say of Plumlee, before Donald Trump was elected president and then defeated and impeached twice, “He will definitely get some triple doubles this year, for sure.”
And yet, it is what you did not see in those highlights that is most meaningful. You’ll notice that Plumlee was able to get his triple-double without hitting a single jump shot, which Terry Stotts once described as “for real,” just a few months after the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union.
Think about that. Plumlee has now proven himself capable of getting a triple-double without the aid of a reliable jumper, which he has been hard at work developing in the 11,306 minutes he’s played since his potential for amassing triple-doubles was first identified. Can you imagine how many more he’ll be able to add to his resume once he starts regularly deploying the jumper that Stotts was so impressed with?
Consider this question long enough, and a clear answer starts to emerge. It’s not a question of whether Mason Plumlee will record another triple-double in his career, but how many.