Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was lounging at the Vault inside the Barclays Center late Thursday night, proudly sporting his Portland Trail Blazers cap when things changed in a New York minute.
"When they told me, I thought they were kidding," Hollins-Jefferson said. "I thought they were kidding, so I was like, 'Um, are you serious?' And then he was like, 'Take the hat off. I was like, 'Uh, ok, Uh.'
"But it's exciting. To have the draft here and then not to have to go anywhere is pretty exciting."
The Nets acquired Hollis-Jefferson, the 6-7 small forward who played at Arizona, along with veteran point guard Steve Blake in exchange for Mason Plumlee and Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton, who was selected by the Nets in the second round. Brooklyn also sent two future second-round picks and some cash to the Hornets for Juan Vaulet, the 39th selection.
They join first-round pick Chris McCullough as the newest Nets, upgrading them with an influx of youth and athleticism general manager Billy King deemed necessary in beginning to re-tool the roster for the 2015-16 season.
"Trading Mason was tough because he gave us a lot in the two years he was here," King said. "But looking at Rondae and his defensive ability, trying to get athletic on the wing position, I felt was something we needed. And I thought he was the best defender in the draft.
"I'd like to try to have a couple of those guys at that position because if you look at Golden State, they can throw [Andre] Iguodala out there. They can throw other guys out there. I think at times we lacked that position where we can just have multiple guys go out there."
Plumlee's name had been out there leading up to the draft and his departure ends an up-and-down tenure in Brooklyn after getting drafted out of Duke in the first round in 2013. Following a strong rookie season that led to a roster spot with Team USA at the FIBA World Basketball Cup last summer, Plumlee's play tailed off considerably in coach Lionel Hollins' system, which is better suited for traditional centers.
Plumlee never quite meshed with Brook Lopez in part because his limited offensive game didn't aid in creating any space, making it almost impossible to put the two together on the floor, particularly in critical situations. During the Nets' first-round playoff series loss to the Hawks, Plumlee's struggles at the foul line were magnified. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer had players foul him intentionally on several occasions, rendering Plumlee almost ineffective whenever he saw the court.
"I think what happened to him, I think Brook Lopez progressed and regained his form," King said. "And with him playing, I think Mason's minutes went down. He never could get back into the rotation, especially after trading for Thaddeus [Young] because I think Lionel went a little smaller at times, and I think when Brook and Mason were on the floor together, they didn't work well.
"But I think a lot of it is, things that we needed Mason to do, he just for some reason wasn't able to do it."