Maya Moore shrugged off the question as if to say, so what’s new? Since high school she has worn a target on her back, drawing defenders like a magnet.
But pressed, Moore relented. Yes, she said, it’s been more physical this year. Yes, there have been more elbows, and more clutching, grabbing and pushing.
“I have numerous scars and scratches,” she said, raising her arms and looking at them. “More than ever, this year. It’s pretty gross.”
She has played through stitches, through a blow that resulted in her playing on national TV with a black eye. Every opponent went into a game against the Lynx knowing the first job was to slow Moore down.
Nobody did. And that’s why Moore on Wednesday was named the 2014 WNBA MVP. Her trophy will be presented to her by league president Laurel Richie before Thursday’s playoff opener at Target Center.
The Lynx, the first team in WNBA history to win 25 or more games in four consecutive seasons, will open defense of their WNBA title against San Antonio. They are here despite injuries that sidelined top backups Devereaux Peters and Monica Wright at the start of the season, kept Rebekkah Brunson out of the lineup for the first 23 games and kept Seimone Augustus out for 10.
They are here because, in large part, Moore willed them here.
A star from the minute she stepped into the league in 2011, Moore took it to another level this season. She led the league in scoring (23.9 points per game, the third-highest average in league history) and player efficiency. She was second in minutes played (34.8) and was second among forwards in assists (3.4). She was fifth in the league in steals, eighth in rebounds.
She was the only player in the league to score in double figures every game, including a league-record 12 games with 30 or more points.
In short, an overwhelming MVP résumé.
“This comes at an awkward time for me,” said Moore, now frowning. “It still being in-season, and not obtaining the ultimate goal of a championship. It’s hard to let myself go there.”
But again, pressed, she said: “It’s definitely awesome. Every game I played in is where I’ve expressed that joy. Every game I enjoyed with my teammates, able to play well and help us win.”
Expanding her game
Ask Moore about her 2014 season and she’ll talk about how great it was to come to a great team in 2011 that allowed her to grow into the player she is today. Mention all of her points and she’ll talk about playing better defense.
Talk about all the glitzy, gaudy numbers, and she talks team.
Out of necessity, Moore scored more. Nearly 30 percent more than last year. But she also played better defense, set career highs in both rebounds and steals and had more assists than a year ago.
“That’s been the beauty of this year,” she said. “I’ve scored more, yeah. But it’s been within the context of what we’re trying to do. I don’t feel like I forced it.”
To Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, the biggest thing is the expansion of her game. Reeve likes to joke about how much Moore loves the three-pointer, and how she’d be happy scoring all of her points from out there. And that’s the way things started this year, when she hit just about every shot she took while opening the season with four consecutive 30-point games.
|Miami - T. Koehler||12:05 PM|
|Washington - M. Scherzer|
|Arizona - J. Collmenter||2:10 PM|
|Colorado - T. Matzek|
|San Diego - I. Kennedy||2:45 PM|
|San Francisco - C. Heston|
|Arizona - R. Ray||5:40 PM|
|Colorado - J. Lyles|
|Cincinnati - M. Leake||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - G. Cole|
|NY Yankees - C. Sabathia||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - M. Buehrle|
|Philadelphia - J. Williams||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - M. Foltynewicz|
|Baltimore - U. Jimenez||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - J. deGrom|
|Tampa Bay - A. Colome||6:10 PM|
|Boston - J. Masterson|
|Los Angeles - J. Wieland||7:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - W. Peralta|
|Cleveland - C. Carrasco||7:10 PM|
|Kansas City - D. Duffy|
|Detroit - A. Simon||7:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - C. Sale|
|Oakland - S. Kazmir||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - K. Gibson|
|Texas - C. Lewis||7:10 PM|
|Houston - S. Deduno|
|Chicago Cubs - J. Lester||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - L. Lynn|
|Seattle - R. Elias||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - C. Wilson|
|LA Clippers||8:30 PM|
|NY Rangers||6:30 PM|
|Los Angeles||8:30 PM|
|Real Salt Lake|