ADVERTISEMENT

Maya Moore glides to the basket over France players during Team USA's gold gedal basketball game during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Harry E. Walker, Mct - Mct

WNBA PLAYOFFS WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS (BEST OF THREE) GAME 1: Lynx vs. Seattle • 8 p.m. Friday • Target Center • TV: ESPN2 (106.1-FM)

Maya Moore: Facing the world -- and better for it

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ
  • Star Tribune
  • September 27, 2012 - 7:18 AM
At times Maya Moore of the Lynx seems able to do whatever she wants on the basketball court. She's strong, athletic. She has big hands and a hoops-savvy mind. Against Indiana, Moore made five three-pointers in one quarter, tying a WNBA record. She had back-to-back double-doubles -- a career-high 12 rebounds each night -- against Atlanta and San Antonio. Then she rolled sevens two nights -- seven assists against Chicago, seven steals against Los Angeles. Those are just her past nine games.

Now it's Seattle's turn to scheme for Moore, a terror in the WNBA since the five-week break for the London Olympics and increasingly a major focus in the Lynx offense.

The Storm will face the Lynx on Friday at Target Center in Game 1 of their best-of-three Western Conference semifinal series. The Lynx are the defending league champions; the Storm won the title in 2010.

Moore has averaged 18.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in the second half of the season, which ranks fourth and ninth in the league, respectively. She and two MVP candidates -- Candace Parker of Los Angeles and Tamika Catchings of Indiana -- are the only players since mid-July in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve credits the Olympics for the second-year forward's improvement.

"[Moore] gained so much confidence in the Olympics," Reeve said. "It was such a tremendous experience for her. She played well, she played on a big stage, and she has kept that up."

Point guard Lindsay Whalen led the league's guards in assists, averaging 5.4 per game, but less publicized is what Moore did, averaging 3.6 to lead all forwards.

Moore's rebounding statistics are better, partly because she is often playing power forward instead of on the perimeter.

"I love mixing it up," Moore said. "I love getting in there as a 'four' and creating mismatches for my teammates, whether it is driving it or being a shooting threat."

Most games, Moore is the first Lynx player down the court on fast breaks, too.

"Sometimes she spots for a three," Whalen said, "sometimes she is cutting in. A lot of my assists are going to her because she runs the floor so well. She reads me so well."

Not that Moore is perfect. Just striving to be.

Lynx assistant Jim Petersen said Moore can try to force passes or go to the wrong spot.

"Sometimes you are going, 'No, no, no, Maya, what are you doing?' [Then] it's, 'Way to go, Maya.' The most unbelievable play just happened," Petersen said.

"She has matured a lot in one year as far as knowing when to take a shot and when to pass the ball," said guard Seimone Augustus, who edged Moore for the team scoring lead in the last regular-season game, 16.6 to 16.4 points per game.

Off the court, Moore may be even more versatile. She is a self-taught drummer, a singer/rapper and an impersonator.

"She can imitate anybody," assistant coach Shelley Patterson said. "Her best imitation -- she imitates an old lady. And she can sing. As a rookie at [team owner] Glen Taylor's house she got up on her own. She was the life of the party."

Her real expertise comes out on commercial jingles. She knows all of them from TV -- and makes up her own, complete with words and music.

"The Maya you see on the floor is very serious, working hard," Patterson said. "You look at her eyes -- she is always concentrating and trying to think ahead. When she steps off that court, she is a totally different person."

Back on the court, Moore has a thick skin.

"If you are yelling at her, she doesn't show it is frustrating," Patterson said. "She listens, she takes it in. She said she attributes it to being coached by Geno for four years."

Geno Auriemma coached the Olympic team and coached Moore in college at Connecticut. He is known as a taskmaster. But Moore always says she enjoyed playing for him because he taught her so much.

"I learned from a young age to hang around with people who are wise," Moore said.

On the Lynx that would be players such as center Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Whalen, two veterans Moore appreciates being on such a talented team. The Lynx took her with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, and she was the league's rookie of the year last season.

"It is a huge blessing," she said. "We have the capabilities of doing something really special here."

The last team to win back-to-back WNBA titles was Los Angeles in 2001 and '02. Moore was 13 years old at the time.

Asked about Moore's future, Reeve laughingly suggested she would like to be her agent some day.

"If this coaching thing doesn't work out," Reeve said. "I have to make sure that Maya knows I wouldn't mind reaching out to her and representing her."

© 2014 Star Tribune