If this was an impromptu audition between prospective trade partners, giving each side an up-close view of the potential merchandise, it's not hard to see why there's a tug of war surrounding the guy wearing the white jersey with the No. 1 on it.
The Nets and Kings met at Barclays Center Monday night, bringing the two teams under the same roof for the first time since the trade chatter between the two franchises surfaced a couple of weeks ago.
The talk, which centered around Deron Williams, cooled partly because Sacramento was insisting on the inclusion of Mason Plumlee in any player swap. The Nets aren't about to part with their second-year big man. And Monday night's performance should do little to alter that thinking.
Plumlee was a force, scoring 22 points and hitting a career-high 10 free throws in 16 attempts to lead the Nets to a 107-99 win over the Kings. He topped 20 points for the fourth time in his last eight games and fifth time in his career, sparking the Nets (14-16) to their fourth win in their last five games.
"Oh, man, I'm just proud of him," said Jarrett Jack, who added 16 points and engineered an offense that finished with a season-best turnover differential of plus-12 (the Nets committed nine to the Kings' 21). "He's going out there playing instinctive, tough basketball and being that physical presence we need in the middle offensively and defensively, knocking down free throws. He's just really coming of age in this league, making a great name for himself."
Refusing to shake things up and figuring the status quo still was the way to go, Nets coach Lionel Hollins again went with a starting lineup of Jack, Sergey Karasev, Joe Johnson (16 points), Kevin Garnett and Plumlee. High-priced reserves Brook Lopez and Deron Williams came off the bench for their fourth and third straight games, respectively.
Plumlee's play was huge in the Nets' 30-point second quarter, a span in which they seized control over the Kings (13-18). The Nets rattled off a 16-5 spurt in the quarter's final 5:09 and scored the half's final 11 points. The final four came on a pair of dunks by Plumlee that gave the Nets a 57-44 halftime lead.
"I feel like [I'm in] a really good rhythm," Plumlee said. "I think that whole group with Jack, Joe, Kevin and I think Mirza came in and hit some big shots. I think that starting group has a great rhythm and things come easy when you're in unison and guys were able to set me up well."
Lopez had 11 points and six rebounds in 11:47 and Williams had six points and three assists in 16:52. Both nearly went the entire first quarter without seeing the floor, getting inserted by Hollins with 31.4 seconds remaining. They also sat for the bulk of the third quarter, hitting the floor at the 1:23 mark with the Nets ahead 78-67.
"We are winning, man," Williams said. "So that's all that matters. We have team guys, we are not selfish. We are not bigger than the team, so whatever is needed. That first group is definitely rocking right now. Let 'em rock."
Sounds as though that's exactly what Hollins plans on doing for the foreseeable future.
"This is the Brooklyn Nets," he said. "Brook and Deron, yes, they were starters. They've been out, and if you note that while they were out, we started playing better and winning, so why would I go back and change the lineup for now. I would hope they would play better, and they did, and I hope they continue to play well, and maybe we'll have a good mix of starters and bench.
"Before we didn't have a good mix, so hopefully this will help us out, and both of those guys are accepting their roles and are amenable to helping us win, and that's what this business is all about."