E'Twaun Moore shoots a layup at Portland

E’Twaun Moore: ‘Every game in Orlando will feel like a playoff game’

by Jim Eichenhofer

A few aspects of E’Twaun Moore’s game might be best described as unconventional, including the fact that far more of his 4,581 career points have come off floaters than dunks. He’s also listed at 6-foot-3, yet during New Orleans’ run to the 2018 Western Conference semifinals, Moore started 80 games at forward for the Pelicans.

Along the same lines, Moore had an outside-the-box response Tuesday when he was asked about the upcoming adjustment for NBA players competing in Orlando in front of no fans. Moore pointed out that hoopers actually spend far more time in fan-less gyms than they do in front of 15,000-plus fans, after factoring in the year-round preparation for games and basketball season.

“I don’t feel like it’s that strange,” Moore said of no crowd in the stands. “I feel like we’re basketball players. We’ve been playing in empty arenas. Think about this: We play more basketball in empty arenas than we do (full) arenas, with all of the practices, scrimmages, summertime. So I don’t think it will be that bad. I think it will be a lot more fun, actually. It will be a more intimate feeling, not as much going on around (us). So all the attention will be on the game.”

The occasionally camera-shy Moore has never seemed to seek attention since arriving in New Orleans via free agency in 2016, but has the advantage of having appeared under a national spotlight of 21 career NBA playoff games, fourth-most on the current Pelicans roster. For the 11 New Orleans players who’ve never been to the postseason, Moore views the eight seeding games in Orlando as comparable to playoff tilts, since the stakes will be so high. The Pelicans must compile a winning record over the eight-game schedule to have any realistic chance of extending their season.

“It’s very big, knowing that every game means something,” Moore said of the value of the experience for players. “Every game is going to feel like a playoff game. You’ve just got to play your best. It’s different from having a full 80-something game season, where you’re figuring things out (gradually) and traveling. Guys are fresh (after being off for four months), and we’ve got eight games to get it done. So every game everyone is going to bring their best. You’ve got to put forth your best effort every night.”

At 31, Moore is the second-oldest New Orleans player (JJ Redick recently turned 36), allowing him to quietly help guide some of his younger teammates, such as Zion Williamson, who noted early this season that he enjoys conversing with Moore. After playing in 16 of NOLA’s first 28 games of the regular season, Moore then appeared in 35 of the next 36, factoring into a bench that became deeper and more effective when the calendar flipped to 2020. It’s that depth and second-unit production that Moore believes will be another advantage for New Orleans under the unique circumstances all 22 participating NBA teams are about to encounter.

“More so than having the young legs, just having a deep team,” Moore responded Tuesday, when asked if the Pelicans have an edge with seven players age 25 and under. “It’s going to be hard. Guys haven’t been playing five-on-five with the quarantine and everything going on. So having a deep team, having 10 or 11 guys that can play meaningful minutes, I think that’s going to be huge going into this stretch. That’s going to be one of our advantages, that we’ve got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things… a lot of versatility. We’re a deep team.”

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