Warriors' trust in Moody might have earned rookie bigger role originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
DALLAS -- Warriors coach Steve Kerr wasn't the first voice to let rookie Moses Moody know he would be starting the fourth quarter with Golden State down by two points to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
That honor belonged to Draymond Green. The heart and voice of the Warriors gave the 19-year-old an "inspirational speech" before it was go-time. Moody couldn't exactly repeat Green's words when speaking to reporters Sunday after Warriors shootaround at American Airlines Center, but he was clear how much they meant to him.
Just like Draymond and other longtime Warriors advocated for Kevon Looney to return to the starting lineup last round for Game 6 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, Green easily could have voiced his opinion to Kerr and the rest of the coaching staff if he didn't believe Moody was ready to contribute on the big stage. His voice matters, and it's one that always is heard.
There was no doubt in Green's mind or the rest of Moody's teammates, though. The Warriors needed him and they knew he was the right man for the job.
"It means a lot, because I'm sure if they brought it up that they were going to put me in and Draymond said no, it wouldn't have happened," Moody said. "He had faith in me to perform in that game, and not even just that, but the fourth quarter of a playoff game and that means a lot."
Moody proved Kerr, Green and everybody else to be right. His steady presence was a big reason why the Warriors, once down by as many as 19 points, were able to pull off a 126-117 comeback win to take a huge two-games-to-none lead in the conference finals.
The rookie out of Arkansas played nearly 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and was a plus-8 in plus-minus. He took only one shot, which he drained, but made all the right plays while also giving the Warriors a strong defensive presence with his length and hustle. Those 10 minutes might have earned him a much bigger role with the Warriors two wins away from the NBA Finals, too.
Kerr continues to preach that everything is decided on a game-by-game basis, but the five minutes he gave Damion Lee in the second quarter of Game 2 couldn't have gone much worse. In those five minutes, Lee took two quick 3-pointers and missed them both. He committed two fouls, turned the ball over once and was hit with a technical foul for an odd kerfuffle with Mavs big man Davis Bertans.
Lee was a minus-12 and didn't see the court again. He now is a minus-34 in 10 playoff games while averaging under 10 minutes per game. There's a good chance that we see Moody in Lee's usual rotation during Game 3, and possibly for the rest of the playoffs.
If that's the case, Green is far from the only Warrior who trusts Moody is ready for the task at hand.
"He's always going to be ready," Andrew Wiggins said Sunday about Moody. "He's young, but he gets it. Stays ready, works his tail off. He stays prepared. When he gets in the game, he's ready and it shows."
Moody has been waiting for his chance and it couldn't have come at a better time. He puts in the reps and earns overtime with assistant coach Jama Mahlalela. To Moody, staying ready is a physical and mental battle, with an emphasis on the mental side
Though he admitted he heard from teammates to stay ready even more often than usual going into Friday night, this is a skill he has trained himself to master, just like shooting extra free throws or working from beyond the arc.
It isn't easy, and that's especially true for someone who was a lottery pick in the NBA draft 10 months ago.
"Just having that mindset where you're not just going through the motions, you're actually preparing for the game and being in situations you might be in in the game. That's all things that go into being ready and staying ready."
When Wiggins entered the game four-plus minutes into the fourth quarter for Klay Thompson, Moody figured the replacement probably was for him. Nope, keep going. One minute later, Thompson was checking in. This time it had to be for the rookie, right? Wrong again.
There were four separate times where a Warrior checked in before Moody went to take a seat. He didn't come out until Jordan Poole came in for him with 2:25 left in the game.
Each instance only brought more confidence to Moody.
"I was like, 'I must be playing good, they must be rocking with me,' " Moody said. "That was just a testament to that and I was happy to stay in."
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Following the win, Moody's phone was flooded with pictures and videos from his family of everybody back at home in Little Rock cheering him on and showing immense support. From his hometown to Dallas and everybody back in the Bay Area, it's clear Moody has earned the trust of those who matter most, and this could be the beginning of something special.
No matter what happens next, he'll be ready for what's thrown his way.