Eric Moreland made the most of his summer-league opportunity last year.
His defense and hustle made him a favorite of Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who worked out with the summer-league team.
It also made Moreland a favorite of the coaching staff and front office. The forward/center was impressive enough that he was invited to training camp and made the final Kings roster.
But after shoulder surgery in January and two coaching changes since he made his good impression, he is out to prove he deserves to be a King next season.
“I’ve had two, three coaches so I’ve got to start all over again and show these guys I’m working hard and that I’m out here trying to win,” Moreland said. “I’m glad they got a good chance to see me, and hopefully I’ll impress them more in summer league.”
Moreland’s ability to run, block shots and be a multiple-effort defender stood out last summer. But while Moreland was on the mend, the front office now run by Vlade Divac drafted Willie Cauley-Stein, who essentially was selected because he does the same things Moreland does well.
Moreland said he’s not focused on what that means for this season. He’s focused on doing what he does best, providing a spark with his energy.
Moreland had seven points and a game-high nine rebounds in the Kings’ 83-67 summer-league loss to Golden State on Wednesday at Thomas & Mack Center.
Kings assistant coach John Welch said Moreland has been a great energy player and the Kings are using him how they would in the regular season.
“With him and Willie, it’s not like we’re coming down and posting them up and throwing them the ball, because that’s not what we’re going to to do during the regular season,” Welch said. “They’re going to play in the flow of the game. They have to get offensive rebounds, roll to the basket and be under the defense. ... The other night (in a win over Golden State) I thought Eric did a great job with the energy plays.”
Moreland is happy to be back on the court this summer. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder that he sustained during summer league last year.
As an undrafted rookie from Oregon State, Moreland was determined to play through the injury and get invited to training camp. But as his rookie season progressed with stints with the Reno Bighorns in the NBA Development League, his shoulder became more of a problem.
Moreland said he did all he could to avoid surgery.
“I wanted to keep playing basketball,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit out, and the doctors told me I could keep playing as long it didn’t act up, but it kept popping out. I really couldn’t take it no more. I would do a reverse lay up and it would come out (of socket).”
Moreland used the time away from the court to work on getting stronger. He was a wiry 6-foot-10, 218 pounds as a rookie but has added “15, 20 pounds” thanks to a steady workout regimen.
Moreland said as soon as he was cleared by doctors, he began working with the Kings strength and conditioning coaches. He stayed in Sacramento to ensure he could keep up with the program rather than move back to the Houston area, where he’s from.
“I’ve been around Sacramento about six weeks and he’s been in the gym every day,” Welch said. “So he’s one of the guys, I think right when the season ended, he’s been in the weight room. He’s been on the court working every day. ... I think the work he’s put in is showing.”