Ten minutes before the Timberwolves' pregame meeting Wednesday, rookie Wendell Moore Jr. didn't know he was starting. The team even announced on Twitter a starting lineup that did not have Moore listed.
But just before that meeting, the coaching staff informed Moore he was going to be starting. The 26th overall pick in the draft said it was almost a blessing in disguise that he didn't have much time to think about his first NBA start. He just had to get ready to play without dwelling on it.
"I came here and it was just another day," Moore said after Wednesday's 109-101 win over Memphis. "Came to get my work in. I was going to cheer my teammates on and just get this win. Once I got the news, I knew I had to shift my mind-set into gear and be ready to go."
Not only was he going to start, the Wolves wanted him to guard All-Star Ja Morant. Fortunately for Moore, even while he wasn't expecting to play, he said he had been studying the scouting report on the Grizzlies and Morant,
"I had already been watching film the past couple days," Moore said. "I watched their last few games. I was trying to pick up on his tendencies anyway and really just following the game plan that coaches gave me along with the confidence my teammates had in me."
Anthony Edwards said the team drew energy from the way Moore came out and guarded Morant, who finished with 24 points on 8-for-20 shooting with seven turnovers. Moore registered seven points, a steal and a block.
"He's getting the rebound, pushing in transition, made big plays for us," Edwards said. "He actually got some big blocks for us that they probably didn't give to him."
Coach Chris Finch said he thought Moore's defense on Morant was "really good."
"He had outstanding position," Finch said. "He picked him up, kind of slowed him down, he got him in the direction that we wanted him to go. He didn't try to overpressure him or anything, he did a great job of containing, and then he was physical on the glass."
Moore held his own against Morant and contributed to a much-needed Wolves win, which snapped a three-game losing streak. The Wolves needed Moore to step up because not only were they down Karl-Anthony Towns, who is out indefinitely because of a right calf strain, but also Jaden McDaniels, Jordan McLaughlin and Taurean Prince.
Moore said he felt the support from his teammates when the starters were set.
"It was unbelievable feedback," Moore said. "It was, 'Be you, be you. Be aggressive. Do what you do, you're built for this.' So hearing those encouraging words from these guys just made my job easier out there. I didn't have to think about anything."
When the Wolves get some of their regulars back healthy, Moore is more likely to stay on the bench and get time with the team's G-League affiliate in Iowa than he is to remain in the rotation.
But with his intensity and defense Wednesday, Moore made a case that he shouldn't be too far from their mind should the Wolves need him again.
"The ball rewards effort, the game rewards effort," Moore said. "As long as I put 100 percent of everything I can out there and let the pieces fall where they fall."