Sports

Moore, a hoops vagabond, has new home with Kings

Veteran center Mikki Moore has a three-year deal in Sacramento, which means a lot to him considering the places he's been to get there.
Veteran center Mikki Moore has a three-year deal in Sacramento, which means a lot to him considering the places he's been to get there. AP

NEW YORK -- The pet snakes still are in Detroit. The new house in Granite Bay isn't his just yet. And the daydreams Mikki Moore had about finally driving one of his convertible Chevy Impalas or Oldsmobile Delta drop tops in the sunny confines of California? Well, it's winter now, and acclimation of another sort takes precedence.

But the best part is the part that is so long overdue for Moore: He has time.

The Kings forward who spent his first 10 professional seasons bringing new meaning to the word "journeyman" hasn't had this sort of security. Of the financial sort, to be sure. He doesn't mind the $12 million he's guaranteed from the Kings or the potential for $17 million over three years.

But that last part is the key: three years. It's a relative eternity for a player who spent so much of his basketball existence keeping his bags packed waiting for the next move.

"It helps me have structure," Moore said. "A lot of people think it's just money. It's not just money. It's being somewhere for a long time, just being accepted for who you are."

He has New Jersey to thank for that. And, of course, himself.

Moore faces the Nets today for the first time since everything changed with the Nets. They were his eighth team in eight seasons, and a second go-round at that after a 2003 stint in which he was cut after four games.

"When we got him, we were hoping he could ... come in and give us a few minutes here and there," Nets general manager Rod Thorn said. "He's an anomaly, one of those guys who kept playing, who took care of himself, and when his big chance came, he was ready to step up. It doesn't happen very often."

Especially to 32-year-olds.

When Moore was traded from Seattle to New Jersey for a second-round draft pick in June 2006, he saw only minimal minutes behind starting center Nenad Krstic. Then, Krstic's season ended when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Lakers on Dec. 22, 2006.

Nets coach Lawrence Frank initially replaced Krstic with Jason Collins, but Moore was given the spot after just one game.

The Nets recovered from a 12-18 start to finish 41-41 with Moore posting career highs in points per game (9.8), rebounds (5.1) and minutes (26.4). Most notably, though, the Nebraska product became the first undrafted free agent to lead the league in field-goal percentage (60.9) and played his best during the Nets' playoff series against Toronto and Cleveland.

Free agency brought the sort of uncertainty Moore hadn't experienced with the leverage of his breakout season and the hope he could secure stability.

Moore said the money won't affect his motivation.

"I'm still going to work every day," he said, "still (being) hard on myself."

Which he was early on, when fumbled passes and minimal production brought immediate skepticism from his new fan base.

The question of whether playing with Jason Kidd was the biggest factor in Moore's success came quickly and, to an extent, remains. Yet Moore has recovered, averaging 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in December.

A one-hit wonder, he assures you, he is not. But time, which he finally has for once, will tell.

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