NEW YORK — When Marshall Plumlee signed with the New York Knicks in July, he was quickly confronted by a dilemma all residents of the city know well.
Like many of his teammates, Plumlee, a native of Warsaw, Indiana, took up residence in a plush apartment in downtown White Plains, a Westchester County city about 27 miles north of Manhattan. From there, he could get to the team's sequestered practice facility in just about 10 minutes.
However, living outside the city also meant having to navigate through a labyrinth of highways and turnpikes—not to mention ornery Manhattan cabbies and midtown's mercurial streets—to reach Madison Square Garden.
Plumlee gave his black and red Mini Cooper Countryman a shot, but decided that wasn't for him.
So instead, Plumlee decided to mimic his suburban white-collar neighbors. For the past six months, the 7'0" center has been relying on car pools and public transit to get to work.
"Not wanting to deal with driving in the city was a factor, but that wasn't the only factor," Plumlee told Bleacher Report. "I realized early on the train was really convenient, and that I could save on gas, and also that my teammates didn't mind taking me.
"It's a great opportunity to talk to teammates about the life, the season. I really look forward to the rides now."
Those teammates have typically been Ron Baker and forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Assistant coach Corey Gaines, who lives in the same building as Plumlee, occasionally gets called on as well.
"Marshall's not really a city driver. He's afraid to take his little go-kart out into the city," Baker told Bleacher Report. "But he's got good teammates who step in and give him rides. I actually don't mind driving him."
The 24-year-old Plumlee, who helped lead Duke to a 2015 National Championship and earned his Army officer credentials at the school's ROTC program before graduating in 2016, does try to be a good passenger. He brings snacks that he buys from a local health store and sometimes splurges on larger gifts.
Once, Kuzminskas told him how fond he is of an old-fashioned tobacco pipe that one of his family members owned. So Plumlee decided to buy him a $200 pipe from Manhattan tobacco store Nat Sherman Townhouse.
Still, while answering questions for this story, Plumlee wondered out loud whether he had done enough to repay his teammates for chauffeuring him around.
"Now that I think about it, I sound like a lazy ass," Plumlee said. "I try to sneak in some gifts to the guys to compensate, so I feel OK with the balance structure, but maybe I'm off."
Kuzminskas, for one, said he's enjoyed his time in the car with Plumlee. Or at least he did at the beginning of the year.
"It was great then, he was someone I could talk to and practice my English with," he told Bleacher Report. "But then as time went on, he got more brave and started leaving mashed potatoes and all sorts of rubbish on the floor of my car. It was the worst."
Rides to MSG are sorted on gameday mornings via text messages. Plumlee, who takes online coding classes, has become the go-to techie in the locker room, sometimes using time in the car to set up gadgets for his teammates. That could be a Nintendo system for Derrick Rose or answering questions from Sasha Vujacic about his Google Home.
Postgame rides, however, are determined in the locker room on the fly. If Plumlee's teammates leave before he's ready, he'll walk out on to Seventh Avenue and grab a cab to Grand Central Station ("I don't know the subway well yet," he said), where he'll catch a Metro North train back to White Plains.
On board, he'll binge-watch episodes of The Office or Parks and Recreation, or thumb through the travel book Mindfulness on the Go, an early-season gift from Knicks president Phil Jackson to the team that Plumlee keeps in the front pocket of his black knapsack.
Those skills no doubt came in handy on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 20.
The Knicks frequently send their young players down to the team's D-League affiliate in Westchester on off days so that they can get more playing time.
Plumlee, who has played in just 11 NBA games this year, has been a frequent Westchester Knicks drop-in. He's played 13 games for the team and was scheduled to suit up for them again that afternoon. Then he received a call from a team staffer at 10 a.m. to tell him Knicks' starting center Joakim Noah was sick and they needed another big body to throw at Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard.
The only catch: Tip-off was at noon.
Plumlee jumped out of bed and caught an express train to Grand Central. He then slid a cabbie an extra $60 to run a red light so he could get to MSG on time. Eventually, he jumped out of the car and sprinted to the arena to avoid Midtown's congestion. He arrived midway through the first quarter and checked in during the second.
Occasionally, Plumee will take an Uber Pool ("He's big on interaction," Baker said) back to White Plains. After a recent game, though, the Uber driver, according to Plumlee, became annoyed at the other passengers in the car and kicked everyone out of the vehicle before reaching Plumlee's home.
"We were in the middle of the woods," Plumlee said. "But thankfully Uber's customer service was great. It was just an angry driver."
One of Plumlee's brothers, Miles, a center for the Charlotte Hornets, said he wasn't surprised to hear that his younger brother had eschewed driving himself to work and instead been "bumming rides."
"Marshall does a lot of things that don't make sense," Miles told Bleacher Report in a phone interview earlier this month. "He's a little weird."
He also said the roads are probably safer without his brother driving on them: "I'll say this: Anytime he's switching lanes on a highway, I get a little nervous. And somehow, anytime he borrows a car from someone in the family, it comes back damaged."
When he was a student at Duke, Marshall borrowed his brother Mason's car. According to Miles, Mason spent years saving up so that he could cease driving the old Chrysler that had been handed down from grandmother to father to Miles. He bought a used Audi and let Marshall get behind the wheel.
"And he pulled it out of the driveway with the passenger door open and hit something," Miles said. "I don't really remember the how or why because it never really made sense to me."
Marshall did confirm this story, but he declined to delve further into details.
"If Miles wants to throw me under the bus, fine," he said. "But I'll just say this: I've gotten one ticket and into one accident in my life. The accident wasn't my fault. Meanwhile, we've had, like, four family cars and Miles has totaled all of them."
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.