SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Kerr typically avoids showering upon rookies, opting to straddle the line between calm encouragement and cold guidance, supervision, reminding them that the NBA is a cathedral of learning.
It’s evident, though, that Kerr likes what he sees in Moses Moody, the 19-year-old wing from the University of Arkansas that the Warriors drafted with their second lottery pick, No. 14 overall, less than three months ago.
“We’ve seen him in the last few days start to pick up on things,” Kerr said late Friday night, after a 121-114 preseason win over the Lakers. “The first few days were kind of a whirlwind for him. But it’s a testament to his basketball instinct how quickly he’s picking things up.”
After playing a total of 21 minutes and scoring six points in the first two preseason games, Moody put up 10 points in 10 fourth-quarter minutes against LA. He took three 3-pointers and drilled them all. His deep shooting, which pushed him from the late first-round into the lottery, was quick and clean.
That wasn’t enough to satisfy Moody.
“Honestly, I’ve got to put some more arc on it,” he said. “Put some more power behind it. But I’ve been working on it for a long time, so getting into this situation, it’s what I’ve been preparing for.”
Such an expression of confidence layered beneath sincere self-criticism is how a rookie endears himself to a coaching staff and teammates. This was Moody responding to his best performance with a humility that bares the depth of his ambition.
It was two months ago, during the California Classic in Sacramento, that Golden State’s director of player development, Jama Mahlalela, said his first impressions of Moody was that the kid needed to pick up his pace, learn to be quicker without being sloppy.
“He’s a great listener, though,” Mahlalela said. “And he’s not afraid to work.”
In the roughly two months since that early assessment, Moody has shown visible progress in the areas most significant to the Warriors. His shot release is tighter, he’s more assertive on defense and off-ball his movements on both ends are more decisive.
Some of Moody’s growth derives from individual work in the gym, but a lot of it is the on-the-job training that goes with scrimmages, video study and listening to veteran teammates. Moody was a hot recruit out of high school and as a freshman was the best player on his college team, but it didn’t take long to realize the NBA is filled with players who already have accomplished the goals still relegated to his dreams.
“I’m in a great situation, with a great organization, with a lot of help,” Moody said. “I’m listening to not only the older guys, the vets on our team, but also the coaching staff. Everybody is dishing out so much knowledge and opportunities to learn. Everybody from Steve Kerr to Steph Curry to Avery Bradley to Juan (Toscano-Anderson) and D-Lee (Damion Lee).”
With fellow lottery pick Jonathan Kuminga (strained right knee) likely to miss the remainder of the preseason, Moody is toiling under a brighter spotlight. He’ll get more of a real-time education during the final two preseason games.
“He's just got a really good feel,” Kerr said. “He's a gamer. You just put him out there and he seems to be in the right place.”
Defense, Moody said, is his primary focus, the surest path to NBA minutes. The offense, he added, will continue to evolve.
“Baby steps,” he said. “I’m better this week than I was last week, and next week I hope I’ll be better than that. There’s going to be ups and downs. It’s going to be a bumpy road. I’m new in this situation, a young guy coming into a really good team. So, I know there’s going to be highs and lows throughout the season. I’m anticipating that and I’m preparing for it.”
There’s only so much that can be learned in training camp and preseason. The Warriors like what they have seen from Moody. He’s still a longshot for rotation minutes, but that shot is shorter than it was even two weeks ago.