E’Twaun Moore is considerably more similar to Tim Duncan than most combo guards who played 331 minutes during their entire rookie seasons. Moore isn’t likely to one day sprout 10 more inches and become a Hall of Fame center, and he almost certainly won’t be the centerpiece of a team that wins four titles. But like Duncan, he plays with the emotion of a fisherman on a calm, fish-less morning and refuses to change his demeanor for anyone or anything.
Watch Moore play basketball, even when he’s not playing well, and you get the sense that he feels like he belongs. Not just on the team or on the court, but with the ball in his hands, taking advantage of his opportunities. If he turns it over one possession, he’s just as likely to handle the ball on the next. If he misses a shot, he’ll hoist up the next one like he just drilled seven in a row. Confidence and poise are his greatest traits. He is the 75-year old driving 50 MPH in the slow lane as everyone beeps from behind him. He moves at his own pace and dances to his own pianist, whether he shares a court with Kris Joseph and Fab Melo or Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Moore has a habit of getting where he needs to go. He has never forced scouts to furiously express their content with his athleticism, but he often meanders his way into the paint, almost like a miniature, considerably less-talented version of Paul Pierce, as defenders try to chase him, probably wondering to themselves, “Why can’t I stay in front of this dude?” Moore hasn’t dominated the Boston Celtics’ first two summer league games, but he has controlled them. He’s not a natural point guard, but he has a knack for dictating tempo. His own stoic poise seems contagious and the Summer Celtics simply look more organized when he plays. Plus/minus stats aren’t always perfect with small sample sizes, but Moore’s +25 rating is telling.
We could credit this to his status as a veteran, but Moore isn’t much more of an NBA veteran than most of his summer league teammates. He only played 331 minutes last season. The Celtics had just three practices after the All-Star break. Even when the team did have practices, said assistant coach Ty Lue, “the vets wouldn’t let him on the court.” Moore’s best bet to try learning point guard, a new position to him, was to watch Rajon Rondo and mirror what he did. But a second-round draft choice mirroring Rondo is like a high school art student trying to become Michelangelo. Very few people in the world can play point guard with the flair and pizzazz Rondo provides on a nightly basis. Moore has the traits to succeed as an NBA point guard, or at least as a combo-guard, but he won’t do it in a similar fashion to Rondo.
It’s a shame Sam Cassell doesn’t coach on the Celtics’ staff, because he had a similar style to Moore. Cassell wasn’t going to sprint past anyone, so he used hesitation dribbles and changes of pace to create separation. He didn’t thrive scoring at the rim, so he developed a deadly mid-range game to counteract his own athletic limitations. There were more talented players than Cassell. But Cassell fancied himself as a crunch-time extraordinaire and has dozens and dozens of crucial shots on his resume. You couldn’t rattle Cassell. He shouted and never stopped chatting and pranced around with that “biggest testicles in the world” dance, and I can’t see Moore ever doing that. But if the Purdue product wants to succeed in the NBA, to thrive and not just hang around at the end of a roster, he’ll need to become more Cassell than Rondo.
As of now, the second season on Moore’s contract isn’t guaranteed. It will become so at the end of summer league, assuming the Celtics don’t release him before then. As many others have noted before, the Celtics have a real opportunity for Moore this season. Ray Allen departed, Courtney Lee might be a pipe dream and the Celtics currently have an opening next to Jason Terry on their second unit. Moore doesn’t just have the chance to earn a spot on the team. He could potentially earn minutes.
If he does, the road could become littered with angry drivers. Moore might be located in the fast lane, but he establishes his own speed limit and can never be influenced into breaking it, no matter how many people behind him honk, flash their bright lights or flip him the bird.