A hallmark of E'Twaun Moore's game is his versatility. He can play point guard or shooting guard, and on Sunday night, he did both.
The Orlando Magic already regard him as a jack of all trades. What team officials don't know — at least not yet — is whether he will master any of them. That's what this season is all about for him.
Moore offered some reasons for optimism as the Magic beat the Spurs 104-100 in front of an announced crowd of 17,012 at Amway Center. He scored 14 points in 30 minutes. He also dished out eight assists without a turnover.
Not too shabby for someone so often labeled as "not a true point guard."
In the third quarter, with Moore on the court, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn planned to call a play — until he saw Moore talking to teammates.
"You got a call?" Vaughn asked him.
"Yes," Moore responded.
Vaughn sat back down.
"That's where his progress is," Vaughn explained later. "He's seeing the game better. He has a better understanding of what we're trying to do, and he's really done a good job, especially these last two games."
One moment Sunday, he guarded the San Antonio Spurs' cat-quick point guard, Tony Parker. The next moment, Moore attempted to slow wily swingman Manu Ginobili.
In one sequence, Moore initiated a pick-and-roll with Gustavo Ayón and hit a floater in the lane. A short while later, he camped out in the left corner, received a pass from Jameer Nelson and swished a 3-pointer.
Moore has faced a recurrent criticism since his college career at Purdue drew to a close. At 6 feet 4, he was labeled a "tweener," too short to be an effective everyday NBA shooting guard. At the same time, many analysts thought he was too intent on finding his own shot to be an NBA point guard.
The Magic hope he can develop into a steady backup to Nelson.
“He’s a scorer, and in this offense, he’s going to have opportunities,” Nelson said. “He stays on the attack and he’s making plays. It’s one thing to set up the team, but you still have to be aggressive.”
Asked if Moore was a true point guard, Nelson said, "Are there true point guards in our league anymore? Just about all of them can score."
The Magic took minimal risk when they signed Moore in early September. His two-year deal is believed to be only partially guaranteed this season and completely unguaranteed for 2013-14.
He seemed to earn some more trust on Sunday.
He played the final five minutes of the first quarter and the entire second quarter, rarely looking winded as he intermittently guarded Parker, Ginobili and even rugged small forward Stephen Jackson.
Early in the second period, Moore deflected an entry pass into the paint for Jackson from Tiago Splitter, collected the loose ball and calmly threw a pinpoint outlet pass down the floor to J.J. Redick for a layup.
The Magic finished with 24 assists, and they made 49 percent of their shots.
It's dangerous to put much stock into a preseason exhibition, and Vaughn almost grimaced when someone suggested afterward that he might have bragging rights over his friend and mentor, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Vaughn and Popovich shook hands after the final buzzer and shared a few words.
Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili then approached Vaughn and hugged him.
"It was a special feeling," Vaughn said. "It makes you think about the time that you spent with those guys. There's guys on that team that I played with, guys on that team that I coached, staffs that I was in a lot of meetings with.
"You think back on, what is basketball about? And, for me, it is that right there, that they know that I care for them."
Moore, meanwhile, made his way back to the Magic locker room.
He had plenty to savor.
Just like his coach.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times