Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Moore making solid case to stick
By Greg Payne
LAS VEGAS -- For a player with so much riding on his Summer League play, E'Twaun Moore has not only disregarded any personal agendas, but he's emerged as one of the true leaders on a Celtics squad that's posted a 6-1 record in Orlando and Las Vegas.
With more efforts like Tuesday's 25-point outburst, E'Twaun Moore could be taking flight with the Celtics.
Playing on a non-guaranteed contract, it would be easy to see why Moore would have himself as the No. 1 priority this week, as the Celtics have until midnight Sunday to bring the second-year Purdue guard back next season. But through two games in Vegas, the unflappable Moore has picked up where he left off in Orlando, caring more about steering a formidable Celtics summer ship to win after win than attempting to fill up the stat sheet.
Of course, coming through with great box scores never hurts one's cause for a job in the NBA, and that's what Moore did Tuesday night, pouring in a Summer League-high 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and two assists as the Celtics escaped a Chicago Bulls comeback and emerged with a 79-74 victory to move to 2-0 in Vegas action.
But these weren't 25 selfish points from Moore. While the Summer League is known for players who chuck the ball at the basket in the hopes of getting noticed, Moore played a patient, calculated game on Tuesday, taking his shots when they became available and never sacrificing the team offense for his own shot selection.
"He's always been a scorer, but he's trying to convert into a point guard, trying to run a team," Celtics Summer League coach Tyronn Lue said. "But we just want him to be aggressive, looking for his shot, and attack and look to score. He had a great night, carried us."
Moore came out on fire as he buried back-to-back left baseline turnaround jump shots as part of a 5-for-6 shooting effort in the first quarter that saw him finish with 11 points.
"I just hit a few early, so I said, 'Why not keep going, keep shooting?' It felt good, so why not be aggressive?" Moore said. "Any time you hit your first couple, it gives you confidence going into the rest of the game, so I just kept looking for it."
The Celtics' 87-69 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday saw five players score in double figures. Moore wasn't one of them (he finished with nine), but the difference between the two games perhaps speaks best to the mindset he's bringing onto the floor.
On Monday, with rookies Jared Sullinger and Kris Joseph (14 points apiece) shouldering the offensive load, Moore helped facilitate the offense through them (he assisted on Joseph's two baskets in the third quarter). But on Tuesday, with Sullinger going 3-for-15 for seven points, Moore understood that the team needed an extra dose of scoring, and he confidently obliged.
"Just find the balance," Lue said of what the Celtics want from Moore this week. "Like tonight, Jared struggled, 3-for-15 from the field, but he had 14 rebounds, but E'Twaun stepped up the scoring. That's what we've been doing for the whole Summer League. Guys are stepping up for different guys and he played well tonight."
When asked which players have emerged as leaders on this squad, Lue immediately offered Moore's name. While Moore lost a year of Summer League experience due to the NBA lockout last summer, he does have the advantage of having had a season (albeit a lockout-shortened one) in the Celtics' locker room, where he picked up the same system that's currently being incorporated in Vegas. Lue said that knowledge of what the team wants to do has set Moore apart.
"He knows what we're doing around here with the Celtics," Lue explained. "He knows our mentality and what we're trying to do. He was here last year and he knows the plays, he knows the sets, so he's doing a good job of getting guys in the right spot and the right position. If you're a point guard, you're going to assume a leadership role."
The Celtics stumbled late for the second game in a row on Tuesday, as a 17-point lead at the end of the third quarter was cut down to five with less than two minutes remaining. But just as Chicago was threatening to complete its comeback, Moore managed to get position in the paint and tossed in a quick floater, giving the Celtics some breathing room at 76-69 with less than 90 seconds to play. A minute later, Moore calmly capped things with two free throws.
Moore maintained afterward that he isn't dwelling on the countdown toward Sunday. He stressed that he's "just playing basketball" this week, as if the thought of even answering a question about his uncertain future will pollute his focused mindset -- a mindset that has so far not only established him as a team leader, but has allowed him to perform like a player worthy of some good news on Sunday night.