In 2007, Jamario Moon finally made it to the NBA after seven years of toiling for a dozen different teams in the D League, the ABA, the WBA, the US Basketball League, and even the Mexican National League.
Fifteen years later, his nephew Xavier got his chance to make his NBA debut, and he just turned 27, too — the same age Jamario was when he had his breakthrough. The older Moon had a guaranteed contract while Xavier just finished the 10 days of his hardship exemption, but the beauty of the moment remains the same. After playing in France and Canada and Israel before coming back home to the G League this year, Xavier Moon saw his dream come true this week when he suited up for the Clippers against the Brooklyn Nets.
3-time CEBL Xavier Moon of the Edmonton Stingers made his NBA debut with the Clippers tonight. Here’s his first career basket pic.twitter.com/JKSsASVsQT— Brian Swane (@BrianSwane) December 28, 2021
“I can’t even explain it for you,” Moon said about the last 10 days. “It’s been a dream come true. It’s something I’ve been working towards since I was small, so just to get this opportunity is huge for me, it’s huge for my family getting to watch me on TV after playing overseas these last, like, four years. It’s a dream come true for sure.
“It’s still unexplainable to me, something I’ve been working for, but to get here and hit my first shot, man, it just feels like this is where I belong. All the hard work’s been paying off.”
The Clippers signed Xavier Moon to bring on another ball handler with Reggie Jackson in the health and safety protocols, and the Agua Caliente Clipper ended up playing 29 total minutes in wins over Boston and Brooklyn. Acting head coach Brian Shaw commended Moon’s ability to keep the team organized and maintain his approach from the G League: “be aggressive, let it fly, have fun, and play hard.”
That all culminated in Moon’s best performance yet Monday, albeit in a loss to the Timberwolves. As the Clips struggled to take care of the ball collectively, Moon had no turnovers in his 26 minutes. He had an all-around impact, contributing 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Although the team trailed by 20-plus points for most of the second half, Moon led a run in the fourth that cut the lead to 12 featuring some pull-up jumpers, an assist to Keon Johnson, and even a strip in transition.
“I really think he belongs in this league, he has a good feel for the game, and I think you saw that tonight,” Shaw said postgame. “He plays hard, he gets off the ball at the right time and he competes, so it’s just a matter of finding the right fit for him, but I do believe that he belongs on an NBA roster.”
Whether that’s the Clippers roster is an open question. Moon’s 10 days are up. The Clippers still have three players in the protocol, but Brandon Boston Jr. and Ivica Zubac have already been in for five days and could clear any day now; with Wenyen Gabriel and James Ennis III also on hardship deals, that doesn’t leave room for Moon if either Boston or Zubac is activated.
At least the point guard can say he made the most of his opportunity while he was with the Clippers. He showed off his quickness and his leaping ability, splashed a few jumpers, and got the stamp of approval up and down the Clippers organization, from executives to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who told the “young fella” to keep shooting his shots.
Now it’s up to that brain trust if Moon will have a chance to stick around. And if he does have to find his way back into the NBA, this time he knows with certainty that he can play in this league, not that he ever really questioned it.
“I don’t think I ever had any doubts, mainly because of what my uncle went through,” Moon said. “So I felt like if he can go through it and make it here, then I feel like I can do the same thing.... Obviously I’m not here to play a huge role, but I’m here to play my role. So whatever they ask me to do, that’s what I’m here to do, whether it’s run the team, run the offense or bring energy off the bench. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of that, and who knows what the next week holds? I don’t even know. I don’t even know what tomorrow looks like, so like I said, take it one day at a time and just being grateful for the opportunity.”
This season has brought a lot of turmoil, but within it have been these unexpected blessings for journeymen like Moon to finally realize their NBA dreams. Even if Moon’s play for the Clippers is just a blip in the team’s larger arc for the year, he gets to call himself an NBA player, and that is an enormous accomplishment. The joy that has radiated from him over the past ten days is a reminder of what he has gone through to get here and how it feels to achieve a goal after so many years. In an otherwise difficult time, this is a story to cherish.
More news for Tuesday:
- Two more Clippers coaches joined the health and safety protocols: Jeremy Castleberry and Brendan O’Connor. With Dan Craig out due to knee surgery, Dahntay Jones served as the acting defensive coordinator against Minnesota.
- Zach Lowe takes a first pass at this year’s All-Star rosters.
- John Hollinger suggests that the Clippers might pursue turning Amir Coffey’s two-way into a roster contract.
- Patrick Beverley had some things to say — on the court and in his postgame presser — after earning his first win over the Clippers in four tries.
- Chantel Jennings on what lured Becky Hammon away from the NBA.