Exclusive: One-on-one with Bulls' Moore
Having patiently waited for an opportunity to play a significant role in over two seasons with the Bulls, E'Twaun Moore has earned his keep by sticking to one of his mottos.
“Stay ready and you ain’t gotta get ready,” Moore told Amico Hoops.
Since losing Jimmy Butler for the second time in Denver a couple of weeks ago, Chicago has had to find a way to fulfill the All-Star’s role as best as possible.
Plagued by injuries since the inception of the season, the Bulls have desperately needed somebody to contribute in Butler’s place and take the load off of Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol to stay in the hunt for the postseason.
“It’s a blow for our team,” Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told Amico Hoops of losing the All-Star guard. “He not only is a guy that gives us a very versatile offensive player, but he’s our best defensive player and can guard big wings.
“That’s where I think we miss him most. Plus, he’s a guy that’s made a lot of clutch plays for us every night, so we do miss him.”
“He provides a spark defensively for us,” Moore said. “He’s always getting steals and making it hard [on the opposition]. That’s only one of the things he brings. He’s one of the best players.”
At times, veteran Taj Gibson has taken the responsibility. In other instances, budding sharpshooter Doug McDermott and promising rookie Bobby Portis have stepped it up to provide a spark.
Yet arguably the most dependable player on both ends of the floor has been Moore, a five-year veteran that has slid into Chicago’s starting five to give the team solid production.
“Anytime you have injuries on any team, it’s definitely a change,” Moore said. “Nobody wants to see it happen, but other guys have got to step up and play in their place.”
Logging a season-high 41 minutes against the Lakers on Sunday night, the 26-year-old matched his career-high with 24 points to fuel the Bulls to their second straight win on the road.
Moore previously set his career-high the game after Butler went down for the first time in Sacramento on Feb. 3. Similar to the game in Los Angeles, he played for a then season-high 37 minutes in a win.
“He’s a guy that’s going to go out there and compete every night,” Hoiberg said of what Moore provides. “He’s going to give it to you defensively and he’s not going to make mistakes offensively.”
To this point, Moore has already started in more games (11) than his past two seasons (3). He’s also eclipsed his total minute mark from last year through only 43 games.
It’s the most run he has gotten since he was with the Magic, where he started in Orlando’s backcourt in 24 games between the 2012-2014 seasons.
“It’s definitely fun playing,” Moore said. “I definitely enjoy it. It feels good starting again.”
Moore clearly isn’t taking the chance for granted either. In the midst of all of this, he’s having his best season as a pro with career-bests in field goal percentage (49%), three-point percentage (46%) and points per game (6.7).
[pullquote]Stay ready and you ain't gotta get ready." - E'Twaun Moore[/pullquote]
When asked to rate his performance up to this juncture, Moore said that it’s been “okay” and didn’t sell himself too high. In fact, he mentioned a couple of things he’d like to improve on.
“Maybe shoot a higher clip,” Moore said. “Be a little bit more active defensively and get a couple more steals.”
Playing under a former 10-year pro in his own right, Moore has appreciated Hoiberg’s guidance and trust in him to get the job done.
“It’s been good because he played in the league,” Moore said. “He knows what it takes to be successful, so it’s been a great experience.”
“He’s been really good for us,” Hoiberg said. “It’s great to have a guy that’s been there and played pretty much every role that you can on a team—from a starter to a guy that hasn’t been in the rotation. He’s just a really solid basketball player.”
After losing five straight, Chicago’s won in back-to-back games against Toronto and Los Angeles. They’re sitting at 29-26 tied for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with high-level competition coming from every team making a playoff push.
As far as Moore’s concerned, the Bulls just need finish the season strong as a team. The rest will play itself out.
“Just play hard and stay together,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”