Denton: Moore Creating Instant Offense Off Bench
By John Denton
Feb. 24, 2014
WASHINGTON D.C. – In high school at East Chicago’s Central High, E’Twaun Moore was an all-state pick and the state tourney MVP after he led his team to an upset of Eric Gordon’s nationally ranked Indianapolis North Central squad.
In college, Moore was a four-time All-Big 10 performer and he was a named to All-American squads each of his final two seasons at Purdue. He was the first true freshman to ever lead the Boilermakers in scoring and he ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Throughout his early days in basketball, Moore was always a big-time shot-maker and a go-to scorer for every team that he played on.
That all changed when Moore got to the NBA – first with the Boston Celtics and with the Orlando Magic the past two seasons – and he was put into the role of being a sixth man. What hasn’t changed, however, is Moore’s ability to create instant offense and put up points in bunches. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has always been a big supporter of Moore because of his steadiness and dependability, and he admires how Moore – also an Academic All-American while in college – was able to smartly adjust his game once he got to the professional level.
``It’s a great lesson about the game of basketball at the professional level. Being able to adjust to a role at the NBA level, finding your niche and knowing what’s going to keep you in the league,’’ Vaughn said of Moore. ``The fact that he is extremely competitive is the start of it. You can put him on different guys throughout the course of the game and offer different challenges to him and that gives him a chance.’’
Moore is hoping that he can give the Magic (17-41) a chance to win on the road Tuesday for the first time in 2 ½ months when they face the surging Washington Wizards (28-28 and winners of three straight). Orlando has dropped its last 15 road games and a defeat of Tuesday would equal the franchise record for road futility (16 losses) set from Jan. 27 through March 21 of 2006.
Orlando will once again be without leading-scorer Arron Afflalo (right ankle sprain), so Moore and fellow guards Jameer Nelson and Victor Oladipo will have their work cut out against the Washington backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Those two are the fourth-most productive backcourt in the NBA by scoring 36.5 points per game. According to Stats, Inc., Wall is third in the NBA in the highest involvement of his team’s baskets (combining makes and assists) at 41 percent. That trails only Stephen Curry (42.1 percent) and LeBron James (41.1 percent).
``They’ve definitely got a good backcourt. They’re young and play up tempo, so we’ve got to come out ready to match their intensity and try to slow them down,’’ Moore said. ``We have to try to keep them in the half-court set because they are very dangerous in transition with their ability to get to the rim and their shooting.’’
Moore, who turns 25 years old on Tuesday, has been impressive with his own shooting of late and he has given the Magic a nice spark off the bench since the All-Star break. He had 16 points on Sunday in Toronto and 10 points in Orlando’s defeat of the New York Knicks on Friday. Playing before 10 family and friends last week in Milwaukee, Moore pumped in 17 points and three 3-pointers and he had a key steal of Caron Butler that put the Magic in position to take the lead in the final minute of the game.
Moore’s ability to be something of a Swiss Army knife for the Magic has helped him earn the respect of his teammates and coaches. He can play either guard spot, and seems to mesh well with Oladipo because of his skills either running the offense or shooting from the wing. And Vaughn has even used him at small forward and power forward in different instances when the Magic go small against certain lineups.
Moore was one of the first players that Oladipo gravitated toward during summer workouts because of the respect he already had for him when the two played in the Big 10 at Purdue and Indiana, respectively. Oladipo said he even looked up to Moore when the two of them were in college because of his willingness to take – and make – big shots at any point in the game.
``He’s a great player, man. He can score the ball so many different ways,’’ raved Oladipo, who will be making a homecoming himself as a native of suburban D.C. ``He’s just really good and he’s a threat on the offensive end. He plays both ends of the floor. He’s a good threat for us coming off the bench.’’
Moore, who is averaging 6.2 points, 1.4 assists and 0.82 steals in 18.9 minutes a game, admitted that it was an adjustment early in his career going from high school and college star to bench player in the NBA.
But for the mild-mannered and extremely humble, Moore his drive has always been the love of the game. He grew up playing against bigger, stronger and older guys in a rough section of East Chicago, and basketball was always the guiding life that kept him out of trouble as violence erupted around him.
For Moore, he said he’s willing to fill any role that the Magic want him to play simply because he wants to get on the floor as much as possible.
``I just love to play, so any way that I can get on the court and any way that I can help the team, that’s what I want to do. If I’m starting or not starting, it doesn’t matter to me. Anything that gets me out there, I’m for it,’’ he said. ``There are some advantages to coming off the bench because you can see how the game is flowing. You can see the mistakes and what is going well and you can adapt.’’
Moore has become quite adept at finding different ways to score as defenses run at him to get him off the 3-point line. He is the best player on the team at making the high-arching runner in the lane – a shot that Oladipo hopes to learn from Moore and add to his own game. Against Toronto on Sunday, Moore had seven field goals and six of them were floaters – three with either hand. The shot, he said, came because of necessity because of his 6-foot-4, 191-pound size in the land of 7-footers.
``It’s just something that comes with feel, but it’s something that I’ve always been able to do. Sometimes you get in a rhythm, it feels good and it’s a shot that I can make,’’ Moore said. ``I do put a lot of time into it. It’s not something that I just do in a game. I work on getting in the lane and finding a way to finish the shot. I’m not the most athletic guy – it’s not like I’m going up and dunking on three people – so I have to find an effective way to get my shot off. It’s something that’s always worked for me.’’
Moore is hoping that his versatility for the Magic and his steady improvement throughout this season will earn him a long-term future in Orlando. He knows that he is playing for his NBA life, and he is hopeful that it continues with the Magic beyond this season.
``I try to not think about it. I’ve been knowing that (it’s a contract year) this whole season; it ain’t no secret that it’s my contract year,’’ Moore said with a big laugh. ``I knew it from the beginning of the year. I just try to go out there and play and produce and let the game speak for itself. That will take care of everything else.’’