But then defenses changed, and some of those three-pointers stopped falling. Moore adjusted. She posted up against smaller defenders, continued to move without the ball as well as anyone in the game. Perhaps most important, she improved her ball-handling ability, which allowed her to deal with in-your-face perimeter defense by dribbling to a mid-range shot.
“In our game, the mid-range shot is so valuable,” Reeve said. “It’s not as much fun. You’re going to get beat up. It’s hard work. But it’s what the team needed. She takes the game as it comes. That’s maturity. … But then, she’s used to having the target on her back. She’s been Maya Moore a long time.”
Said Moore: “I can play to my potential and not be all about me. I can do everything that God built me to do, here, within the flow of our offense.”
A tougher player, too
Reeve remembers talking to University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma when Moore was about to enter the WNBA. Auriemma said Moore, as a UConn senior, was like a shark, “ ‘that if you punched her in the face, she goes away,’ ” Reeve said. “I’m proud to say you can’t punch Maya in the face any more. She’ll make you pay.”
The rest of the league knows this. Los Angeles coach Penny Toler has called Moore a “monster.” Atlanta coach Fred Williams called her the Michael Jordan of the WNBA. Her teammates just call her essential.
“She kept her composure,” Augustus said. “She kept leading this team when other leaders were out. She was the consistent one. She had to score, had to defend the other team’s best player, had to rebound the ball. Everything. And she just buckled down and did it.”
She’ll post up, taking the elbows, to score. She’ll cut to the hoop, take the foul. She will draw defenders and pass to a teammate. Most of all, she wins.
Reeve makes the Jordan comparison reluctantly, eager for the day when a great woman’s player is compared, say, to Moore. But for now, she said, the comparison is apt.
“He had a fire in him to be the best,” Reeve said. “No matter how many rings he had. That’s Maya.’’