Almost every article written about E’Twaun Moore, at this point, begins with a mention of his unflappability.
It’s become cliche to describe Moore as a calm, unwavering robot who tends to make proper decisions on the basketball court without changing his facial expression in any situation. If Moore airballed a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter of an NBA playoff game, he would likely wear the same blank stare as if he drilled a game-winner. He does not succumb to any situation. He is the rare airplane that flies through wind gusts of 30 MPH without experiencing any sort of turbulence. He has played just 331 NBA minutes and is not guaranteed to make the Boston Celtics because of his contract situation, but he plays with the confidence of a five-year vet on a long-term deal. Asked by the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett if he worried about his contract situation, Moore simply offered one word. “Nope.”
The Celtics have until Sunday to decide whether to guarantee the second year of Moore’s contract. The guard said he understands why the Boston Celtics are waiting to guarantee his second season. His contract is more tradeable if it is non-guaranteed. Perhaps a veteran will suddenly become available, and the Celtics will need an extra roster spot. Their wait on guaranteeing his contract isn’t a shot at his skill. It’s a smart decision by an organization that wants to keep all of its options open. He is intelligent enough to understand that and confident enough not to let it bother him. Confidence is central to any conversation about Moore. Confidence is also the main ingredient of successful bench players.
We don’t know exactly how Moore will develop. We are intrigued by the time he scored 16 points in 18 minutes while leading the Celtics to their “bar fight” win against the Orlando Magic. We respect what he’s done at summer league, proving himself capable of running an offense while also continuing to find his own. He doesn’t make many mistakes and he can hit shots. But we have just 331 NBA minutes by which to judge him, and many of those minutes came during garbage time. We can only hope and project. So far Moore has given us reason for optimism, but we were optimistic about J.R. Giddens too. The main difference with Moore might be his confidence (he’s also considerably more skilled than Giddens, an athlete misplaced on a basketball court). Cliche at this point, yes, but Moore certainly seems unflappable.
Confidence is the main ingredient of a successful bench player. A reserve needs to be able to enter a game cold and be ready to drill his first shot. He needs to know he’s the ninth man yet have the cool nerves to run an offense that might feature two or three Hall of Famers. He needs to shake off misses quickly — starters can miss their first three shots and still have plenty of time to fire up a fourth, fifth and sixth. If a sub misses his first three shots, he’s probably headed back to the bench to think about his sins. A sub might play eight minutes in one game and 29 the next, and he needs to stay mentally prepared on nights when he doesn’t play as much. Starters are naturally inclined to have confidence because their roles are secure. Bench players need to be secure in themselves, because their roles might be anything but.
Moore has impressed at summer league the same way he impressed during short, irregular stints throughout the regular season: He’s poised, collected and intelligent. He rarely forces shots or passes and prefers the easy play to the flashy one. He doesn’t elicit many “oohs” or “ahs,” but he tends to make plays that coach’s notice as the right ones. He is shooting greater than 40 percent from downtown during the Celtics’ 6-1 summer league start, and he has shown the ability to play point guard, a position he rarely manned while at Purdue.
“You know I can’t talk about another team’s player,” one general manager told the Boston Herald, “but if you’re asking me off the record whether we’d like to have him and whether we’d go after him if he was available, hell yeah.”
Danny Ainge likes Moore, too.
“I like how E’Twaun’s playing,” Ainge said. “I like how he’s performed in the summer league. I like how he performed last year in short minutes. I like how he carries himself. He can shoot, he can handle (the ball), he can defend.
“He’s just a complete, solid player and a top-notch kid.”
Now that Ray Allen and O.J. Mayo have signed elsewhere and Courtney Lee looks unattainable, the Celtics have openings in their second unit. With Avery Bradley out until December or so, the Celtics will need at least one additional back court contributor. They have reportedly targeted Carlos Delfino as a possibility and Mickael Pietrus might return. But Moore, should he make the roster, which seems inevitable barring unforeseen circumstances, should have a real chance to earn minutes.
Whether he’s successful in that quest or not, I imagine he’ll remain unflappable, and that every story written about him will mention it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not mad. Confidence is pivotal to Moore’s story. Confidence is what could ultimately allow him to parlay his skills into a regular role.