The New Orleans Pelicans have made no secret about how they plan to rebound from one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history: In the place of high-profile, high-earning scorers, they spread their cash around this summer to a cadre of hard-working, self-made players.
Indeed, while former franchise stalwarts Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson banked approximately $133 million courtesy of the Houston Rockets, the Pelicans signed or re-signed six free agents this offseason, with not a single lottery pick among them. In fact, their highest drafted signee -- Terrence Jones, the No. 18 pick in 2012 -- will make the least of all of them next season.
None, perhaps, embodies the shift in taste more than E'Twaun Moore.
“I always say I got to work two or three times harder than the average guy to get to where I want to go,” he said Wednesday on a conference call with local media.
Moore’s background is blue collar: He grew up in East Chicago, a steel-mill city in Indiana. After four years at Purdue -- a school, it’s worth noting, that identifies itself via a steel craftsman -- he was drafted late in the second round by the Boston Celtics, and he has since put in two-year stints with the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls.
Last season, his first in Fred Hoiberg’s spread-out system, he broke through. Although his raw production was modest -- 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 21.4 minutes over 59 games, including a career-high 22 starts -- Moore shot a career high from both the field (48.1 percent) and behind the 3-point arc (45.2) and established himself as a credible 3-and-D guard.
“Coming into the year, I felt like I had to fight for a playing spot,” he said. “We had a deep team, a very deep bench. Every time I went out there, I just tried to say, ‘OK, let me go out there and do something to make me stay on the court.’ I happened to shoot the ball well, so that helped me out a lot. I just tried to keep sticking with it.”
The Bulls, who held Early Bird rights on the unrestricted free agent, publicly acknowledged that retaining Moore was a priority heading into the offseason. But the 27-year-old opted for a four-year, $34 million deal with the Pelicans.
“I definitely had a lot more interest from New Orleans than the Bulls,” he said. “I was in contact more with New Orleans. I just felt a little bit more comfortable with New Orleans’ organization and the coaching staff and everything, what they were trying to do with the future. Everything worked out.”
Moore said he hasn’t gone into detail with his new coaching staff on the role he’ll play in New Orleans, but he sees it as a clear fit, considering his versatility and success playing in a similar offense last season.
“It feels good just to have a little stability and a feeling of belonging and having that confidence going into the next year,” he said. “OK, now it’s my turn to show what I can do. It’s definitely a confidence-builder, and it definitely feels great.”
In turn, the Pelicans hope that building a foundation of hard-workers such as Moore pays off for them in a critical season for the team’s brass.
“My road definitely wasn’t easy,” Moore said. “Starting off playing just high school, college, I always had to earn everything. That’s always something that has stuck with me: going out and working hard, fighting for everything that I earn.”