Eric Moreland makes his presence felt during Kings practices.
If there’s a hard fall to the floor or someone is irritating DeMarcus Cousins to no end, Moreland is nearby.
In Monday’s practice at Maples Pavilion, Cousins hit the floor hard after a missed free throw. Why? Moreland was trying to get to the ball, even if it meant going through Cousins.
That aggressiveness helped Moreland make the Kings’ roster as an undrafted rookie from Oregon State last year, and it’s his calling card to a roster spot this season.
“When I get in a game, that’s what I do. I turn (it) up real, real quick,” Moreland said. “I rarely run out of energy, and I do whatever it takes to win games.You’ve got your go-to guys like Rudy (Gay) and Cuz, but you need glue guys, role guys, to do what they do. I take pride in that, and until my time comes, I’ll continue to do that.”
The Kings waived the 23-year-old power forward in July before his contract for this season would have become guaranteed. They brought him back for training camp.
Without financial security, Moreland needed to stand out in practice to land a roster spot.
“It’s always been like that,” Moreland said. “Of course I wanted to be here, but things happen, new management, and I have to control what I can control. I can’t control that. I’ve always had to prove myself, and when I get out there, I just have to do what I do best. That’s nothing new.”
I rarely run out of energy, and I do whatever it takes to win games.
Kings forward Eric Moreland
Coach George Karl indicated Moreland deserves a roster spot on opening night.
“It’s going to be difficult to get minutes between Cuz, Kosta (Koufos) and Willie (Cauley-Stein) when you want to play forward,” Karl said. “But I think he’s a good insurance policy. I think he and Quincy (Acy) both will serve as insurance policies and there may be situations where he can get on the court.”
Moreland first stood out in the 2014 summer league with his defensive play. He briefly appeared in three games as a rookie before having season-ending shoulder surgery.
Despite limited action last season, Moreland said the experience of being on an NBA team was valuable.
“I think the biggest difference is my understanding,” he said. “Last year I got a chance to just watch and learn, understand all the terminology and the perspective from what coaches want. It’s Year Two, and I have the same energy, just more understanding and a little more minutes.”
Moreland played in only two preseason games, but in 29 minutes, he grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots. On Oct. 13, he had 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 15 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I think hustle and energy is an underrated talented,” Karl said. “Everybody thinks it’s an intangible, but I think it’s a talent. (Moreland) definitely has an attitude. He has an approach to the game that adds hustle points, offensive rebounds to the game, and those win games. They win close games, and they win games against good teams.”
Moreland enjoys tangling with Cousins in practice, even though he is giving up about 30 pounds trying to contain the All-Star center who still refers to Moreland as a “rookie” because of his limited playing time.
And from practice to the Kings’ preseason mixed martial arts workout, Moreland seemingly finds a way to match up with Cousins.
“Cuz knows what he gets from me,” Moreland said. “There’s nothing personal on either one of our ends. We just go hard, and he knows I take pride in defense.
He has an approach to the game that adds hustle points, offensive rebounds to the game, and those win games.
Kings coach George Karl on Eric Moreland
“I’m not going to back down. He can get mad all he wants. Sometimes it gets a little rough, sometimes it gets a little sloppy, and sometimes it’s just great defense.”
Or as Karl observed: “They seem to have a combative mentality when they’re on the court.”
Moreland said he’ll even accept being called a rookie until the Kings host the Los Angeles Clippers in both teams’ season opener Oct. 28.
“I’m a rook until the first first real game,” Moreland said. “In about two weeks, that all ends.”
Practice schedule – The Kings practiced at Stanford on Monday because they were in the Bay Area for a team-building exercise.