The last time E’Twaun Moore played a regular season game in Orlando, he was with the Chicago Bulls. Fast forward nearly eight months later and Moore is now on the New Orleans Pelicans. Since that last trip to Orlando with the Bulls on March 26, a lot has changed for the sixth-year guard.
Not only is Moore obviously on a different team now, he is playing a much bigger role than he did in his previous five seasons in the league. Off the court, it would appear that Moore is much happier than he was back in March. During that time, the Bulls were in a huge slump and playing uninspired basketball.
Of course, signing a four-year, $34 million contract over the offseason certainly helps keep morale high as well. For Moore, signing that lucrative contract may not have seemed all that likely just a few years ago. Prior to this season, he had just 46 total starts in his career and was largely used off of the bench. Now, he’s become an full-time starter in New Orleans.
“I’m just excited to be here,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “You just go out and play and you don’t think about the other stuff. [You] just think about playing and trying to win. It’s cool when you know exactly what you’re getting and your minutes exactly; now you’re going to play.
“It’s a lot easier playing the games and they’re a lot more fun. We got a nice, fun young group. We definitely enjoy playing with each other. I’m just excited for the opportunity to come out and contribute to our team.”
Moore was taken with the 55th overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Boston Celtics. He was used sparingly during his rookie season, averaging just 8.7 minutes in 38 outings that year. After being traded to the Houston Rockets, and then subsequently waived, Moore signed a two-year deal with the Orlando Magic.
The deal with the Magic appeared to be a good move for Moore since the Magic were just beginning their rebuild and there was plenty of opportunities for playing time. He established himself as a player who could play either guard position with the Magic and proved to be a valuable option off of the bench.
He averaged 7.1 points per game in two seasons with the Magic, while shooting 35 percent from three-point range. Following his two seasons with the Magic, he signed with the Bulls and didn’t begin to flourish until last season under first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg. He averaged 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Moore proved to be an effective starter when given the opportunity last season. In 22 starts, he averaged 12 points, three rebounds and three assists per game. He became the Bulls’ best three-point shooter, knocking down a career-high 45 percent from three-point range. One of his best games last season came against the Los Angeles Lakers when he recorded 24 points on a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range.
If there’s anyone in the NBA who knows firsthand how hard it is to carve out a role with a team, it’s Moore. He’s bounced around on four different teams and has played in a number of different roles under several head coaches. He’s seen a lot of changes throughout his short career thus far.
“It’s tough to stick around in this league; it’s not easy,” Moore said. “You definitely have to stay focused and stay grounded and keep working. That would be the advice I’d give to anybody that’s trying to make it and trying to stick. You never know when another opportunity comes for you. You just try to take advantage of those.”
Moore has played in 11 of the Pelicans’ 12 games thus far this season and is putting up good numbers. He’s averaging a career-high 12.6 points, three assists, 1.7 rebounds and one steal in nearly 30 minutes per game. His 12.6 points per game are second-most on the team, behind only Anthony Davis.
After all of his hard work up until this point, Moore finally has some real financial security thanks to his deal with the Pelicans. He earned less than $1 million in four out of his five previous seasons in the league. Contracts for second-round draft picks are non-guaranteed, so he often had to battle for that money too.
Moore has previously said that a big factor in signing with the Pelicans was his ability to make an impact. He saw a future with several young stars on the team and thought he could help the squad eventually return to the playoffs. The idea of playing with Davis was appealing as well. Moore joked that he might be guaranteed a few more assists now that he’s playing with Davis.
“[Playing with Davis] makes it easier for all of us,” Moore said. “He draws double-teams and people will help a lot on him just because he’s so talented. We get easy shots and he just helps make the game easier. Anytime you play with good players, you definitely feed off of them and that makes other guys better. Of course, I’ve played with some good teammates in Boston, and Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose can play – but nobody that can score like [Davis] can.”
For now, the Pelicans are hoping to get a healthy roster back on the floor. Davis missed last night’s game against the Magic, while key players like Tyreke Evans (knee), Jrue Holiday (personal) and Quincy Pondexter (knee) have yet to play this season. In all, the Pelicans have had players miss 42 games due to various reasons.
The team is expected to receive a big boost on Friday when Holiday makes his season debut at home against the Portland Trail Blazers. Evans is said to be another week or two away from returning, while no timetable has been set for Pondexter. It could be a while before this Pelicans team is at full strength again, but Moore can see this roster making some noise in the Western Conference.
“I think we can be really good,” Moore said. “You just see all of the games, we were in them and just a possession or two away. That shows you that we got guys and got enough talent to win. I think once we get everybody here on the same page, I think we can be pretty tough.”
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