Maya Moore targets better opening act

Published 12:08 pm Sunday, May 13, 2018

By Kent Youngblood

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

First, get one thing straight. When describing Maya Moore on a basketball court, when comparing one All-Star season to the next, there is no good and bad, only different levels of great.

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The 28-year-old Moore helped the Lynx to four WNBA titles in her first seven seasons. She won the MVP during the 2014 regular season and in the 2013 league finals. She’s been an All-Star every season there was a game. The two years there wasn’t, she went and won Olympic gold.

So everything is relative here.

But Moore will admit that last season — which ended in a fourth title for the Lynx — wasn’t as good as some of her other seasons have been. She doesn’t know why exactly. But she said she has a feeling that will change this summer.

“I have the mind-set coming in of being more ready to go,” she said.

Moore was talking near the Lynx bench at Target Center after the team’s shootaround Saturday morning. At that point she had been in town less than a full day. She landed in the Twin Cities on Friday, took her physical. Saturday’s shoot was filled with Moore trying to reacquaint herself with the Lynx playbook. With that, she suited up and started in the preseason finale against Chicago where she scored 15 points with five assists and four rebounds in an 87-58 win.

Moore was late to camp because she needed some rest after playing the second half of the season for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, a season that ended with a EuroLeague title. Lynx assistant James Wade — who is also an assistant with Ekaterinburg — said Moore came in and immediately lifted that team. No surprise.

Last season Moore took the winter off, coming to Lynx training camp rested but perhaps not razor-sharp. And for some reason, as Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, Moore seemed to struggle — at least by Moore’s standards — at the start of the season.

“It wasn’t so much from a basketball perspective, it was just Maya was sort of hitting a wall,” Reeve said. “Having a hard time, maybe, getting up for things. Maybe the tank was a little more empty. Maybe that speaks to how hard it is to be Maya Moore.”

‘It was just harder for me’

Moore? She agrees, even if he doesn’t exactly know why.

“Sometimes it’s hard to say what exactly gets you in what position at what point in your life,” she said. “Some seasons are harder. And, remembering how hard it was to do what we did last year? For whatever reason, it was just harder for me.”

It was still an All-Star season, though Moore’s 17.3-point-per-game average was her lowest since her second year. But, with center Sylvia Fowles hitting the ground at warp speed, Moore’s relatively slow start wasn’t as noticeable.

But her up-and-down season trended way up at the end. Reeve said Moore might have hit a wall. At the end of the season Moore climbed over it.

Over the first 27 games of last season, Moore averaged 16.6 points and shot 42.6 percent overall and 38.3 percent on three-pointers.

But over the final 15 games — which includes the final seven of the regular season and eight in the playoffs — she shot 51.5 percent overall, 51.6 percent on three-pointers and averaged 19.1 points