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Friday, January 20, 2012
Poised for Moore minutes

By Greg Payne

Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireE'Twaun Moore could see increased time with Rajon Rondo likely out Friday vs. Phoenix.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- E'Twaun Moore has done his best to make the most of his limited minutes this season.

The Celtics' rookie, taken with the 55th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, had, up until recently, played only a handful of minutes in games that had already been decided before he graced the court. But with veteran guard Keyon Dooling fighting a nagging right knee injury, minutes have become available for the likes of Moore and second-year Texas product Avery Bradley.

Bradley had been garnering the bulk of those minutes when Dooling first went down, mainly due to his aggressive and energetic defensive play, but C's head coach Doc Rivers finally gave Moore an extended opportunity in last Saturday's 97-83 loss to the Indiana Pacers, when Bradley was ineffective. Moore checked in and proceeded to play 20 minutes, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Since then, Moore's playing time has been more consistent, and another large helping of minutes could be headed his way on Friday night, when the Celtics take on the Phoenix Suns at home. Rajon Rondo -- who suffered a right wrist injury in Wednesday's win over the Toronto Raptors -- is listed as doubtful, and it's currently looking like Bradley will start at point guard and Moore will be one of the first guards off the bench, which translates to both a larger role and increased minutes.

"I'm not sure if [Rondo] will play or not, so [I'm just going to be prepared], play the game, follow the game plan, and watch the film and be ready," Moore said following the Celtics' practice at HealthPoint on Thursday.

Moore's stats haven't been overwhelming, but he's left an impression. In the two games since his 3-of-7 shooting performance against the Pacers, he's gone 0-for-7 from the field (Doc Rivers likes the shots and thinks they'll start falling soon). But over that same span, he hasn't turned the ball over once, which alludes to how comfortable he seems to already be in NBA game action.

It's difficult to quantify Moore's effectiveness without some engaging statistics, but so far he's passed the eyeball test. Observe Moore on the court and you'll see a player who, so far, has exhibited poise, a sense of calmness, patience and a knack for making smart basketball decisions.

Consider Wednesday's win over Toronto, when, in the second quarter, the Celtics came down in transition and Ray Allen was forced to reverse the ball to Moore at the top of the key. Moore immediately swung the ball to a wide-open Mickael Pietrus in the left corner, who drained a 3-pointer. It might seem like a simple basketball play, but it's one that not every NBA player can be counted on to make.

Moore said after Thursday's practice that he can feel himself adjusting to the NBA game.

"I feel good playing," he said. "I hope I make a few shots the next couple games, but just playing point guard, trying to get everyone involved and getting the ball to the right spots and just trying to play well."

"One of my goals is, when I go in, let the score be even or [increased in the Celtics' favor]. I don't want the tempo to go down when I get in."

As for his shooting struggles in recent games, Moore said the keys to bouncing back are avoiding getting discouraged and some extra time in the gym.

"Just keeping that edge, that competitive edge," said Moore. "Getting back in the gym and just keep doing the routine and just keep practicing, so once I get in the game it just becomes normal."

Moore put in the extra time following Thursday's official practice, knowing that a solid performance on Friday could possibly translate to a larger role as the young season progresses.