DALLAS — Golden State Warriors rookie shooting guard Moses Moody had mostly been a spectator for the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, playing a combined 30 minutes in four games.

After playing the last five minutes of the Warriors’ blowout win in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks, the 6-foot-5, 211-pounder didn’t get any minutes in the first three quarters of Game 2 in San Francisco.

But with fifth-year guard Damion Lee struggling, Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to give the 19-year-old a chance. Before Moody stepped on the floor in Game 2, teammate Draymond Green gave him an “inspirational speech.”

“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 told Andscape. “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 logged 9:35 of the 12 fourth-quarter minutes, playing scrappy defense as the Warriors rallied from a two-point deficit to win 126-117. The Little Rock, Arkansas, native was suddenly a new member of the Warriors’ rotation when it mattered the most. Moody also played 16 minutes for the Warriors during a 109-100 victory over the Mavericks in Game 3 on Sunday and spent time guarding All-Star Luka Doncic.

So why is Kerr using Moody all of a sudden?

“We felt before Game 1 that Moses fits this series well,” Kerr said. “He played well against Dallas in the regular season. We throw a lot of bodies at Doncic. Moses is a tough defender. He has good length and strength, and he fights. He is in there boxing out and getting on the floor.”

For Moody, it was also a matter of being mentally ready.

“I’m used to that environment where you come in with nothing and build everything that you got,” Moody said before Game 3. “That way you deserve it because you earned it and you value it much more.”

At the University of Arkansas, Moses Moody had a “unique talent and mentality,” according to Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Moody said he’s had to grind for what was given to him since playing high school basketball at Montverde Academy in Florida.

Moody averaged 18.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game as a sophomore to lead North Little Rock High School to the 2018 Class 7A state title before transferring to national powerhouse Montverde as a junior. Moody wasn’t the biggest star there, as he averaged 11.6 points on the consensus No. 1 nationally ranked Montverde squad that went an undefeated 25-0 during the 2019-20 season. His teammates included Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, and the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes. Seven players from that Montverde team were selected in the 2021 draft.

“When I went to Montverde, no one knows who you are, and you’re not guaranteed a spot on the team,” Moody said. “It’s competitive. Everyone is there and I had a setback because I was injured. I was in an environment where I had to build my way up and be competitive.”

University of Arkansas men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman quickly learned that Moody had the mentality and work ethic needed to be an NBA player.

Musselman said Moody always got in extra shots after practices and during his free time without being asked to do so. Musselman said the 2020 McDonald’s All American spent time in the training room daily, making sure he took good care of his body. Another key trait for Moody was that he was able to take constructive criticism as a true freshman.

Musselman also credited Moody’s parents, Kareem and Rona, for teaching their son about professionalism and work ethic.

“Moses’ mom and dad did an incredible job,” Musselman told Andscape in a phone interview. “They recognized Moses had a unique talent and mentality. Do freshmen know how to practice and grind? Do they understand what it takes to get your body ready? Know how to train? Moses was a 10 of 10. He was always in the training room taking care of [his] body in the right way. He had a 15-year pro mentality. When he shoots, no earbuds or music or loudspeaker. No talking. Really incredible in his focus.

“He was struggling in nonconference play as a freshman by leaving points at the rim. I mentioned something to him about it. The next day I saw him with two [interns] with pads working on layups. I didn’t get him to do the drill. I addressed it and he worked on it.”

Moody averaged 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game during the 2020-21 season at Arkansas while also shooting 35.8% from 3-point range and 81.2% from the free throw line. The Warriors selected Moody with the 14th overall pick in last year’s draft. Seven picks earlier, Golden State drafted another 19-year-old in G League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga.

ESPN analyst and former NBA center Kendrick Perkins accidentally butchered Moody’s name after the selection, calling him “Mody Moody. Mody Mosey. Moosey Mody.”

“At that point in time, it was all right for him to do. I hadn’t done anything in the NBA,” Moody said. “At Arkansas, nobody was messing up my name, but now it was time to take it on a national scale and make a name for myself.”

Jonathan Kuminga (left) has been the more touted of the Warriors’ 2021 first-round picks, but Moses Moody (right) has also made an impression with the team and veteran players.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Warriors thinking championship and not rebuilding, Moody was not expected to get an opportunity to play like many of his fellow rookies did on lesser teams. Even so, Musselman was ecstatic to see the former Razorbacks star go to San Francisco.

“I kind of felt the Warriors was where he would end up due to some of the conversations and how much character he had and understanding ball movement,” Musselman said. “[Arkansas assistant coach] Ronnie Brewer recently reminded me that he told the team at a draft party three picks before he was going to Golden State. It was a perfect spot for Moses. Any time a player can experience winning, your career is enhanced.”

Moody averaged 4.4 points in 11.7 minutes while starting in 11 of the 52 regular-season games he appeared in this season. But the Warriors’ rookie spotlight was often on Kuminga. Moody was not selected to play in the 2022 Rising Stars Challenge for the league’s top first- and second-year players and Ignite stars. He did show flashes of what’s to come by scoring a career-high 30 points against the Denver Nuggets on March 7.

“I looked at it as an opportunity to hoop rather than any [ego]. That could mess up a lot of dudes’ mindsets and mess you up on the court. I just fought that and stayed within myself on the court.”

— Warriors rookie Moses Moody on playing with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors

The best of Moody was on display with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors, as he averaged 27.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 32.3 minutes per game. He has also spent a lot of time working on his game with Warriors assistant coach Jama Mahlalela. Through it all, the teenager appeared to have a focus and positive attitude well beyond his years and didn’t allow pride to shake him mentally.

“Santa Cruz was an opportunity to play when I wasn’t playing,” Moody said. “I wasn’t playing up here, so it was an opportunity to get some bump in games playing on an NBA floor with NBA rules. Just helping make the transition a little bit faster between college and the NBA.

“I looked at it as an opportunity to hoop rather than any [ego]. That could mess up a lot of dudes’ mindsets and mess you up on the court. I just fought that and stayed within myself on the court.”

At the moment, Moody appears to have the potential to be part of the Warriors’ playing rotation going forward, including the NBA Finals. And through the roller coaster of this season, the rookie believes he is building the foundation for a strong career.

“They have to do a documentary on how he approaches this season,” Warriors star guard Stephen Curry said. “The behind the scenes of how he works, the game speed, the consistent effort every day, not knowing if he is going to play the next day. Going back and forth in the G League, all that stuff, you know it’s going to pay off because his number is going to be called. … Then you get it in a situation where he’s thrown into the Western Conference finals and makes a big difference and plays extremely well. He seems very composed.”

Said Moody: “I am going to put the work in. I am going to take the opportunity as they come and try to capitalize off of them. I’m a hard worker. I do it all behind the scenes. You are not going to see me do much talking about it. I will let my game talk for me with the work I’m putting in.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.

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