Speights Returns To Oracle, Where His 3-Point Shot First Developed
OAKLAND, Calif. – There’s a reason the crowd at Oracle Arena stood up and gave Marreese Speights a standing ovation as he checked in late in the first quarter Saturday night in his first regular season game against his former team.
Speights won a championship while with the Warriors for three seasons, but he did more from a morale standpoint than the typical reserve, which is why Warriors head coach Steve Kerr called him one of his favorite people he’s ever been around and why Speights makes himself a fan favorite everywhere he goes.
“He’s just got a smile on his face all the time,” Kerr said.
That hasn’t changed since arriving this summer with the Clippers.
“He’s been great,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “He’s a good spirit, a good guy to have around. Makes me laugh a lot, and that’s nice – even sometimes when I don’t want to laugh, he makes me laugh.”
Kerr appreciated how professionally Speights handled his time in Golden State, despite fluctuating minutes and rotations. He’d get solid run one game, then only play a handful of minutes or sit the next based on matchups.
Through it all, the smile never left Speights’ face.
“He played with great joy and helped us win a ton of games,” Kerr said. “There were so many games that we were stuck in the water, and all of a sudden he makes five jumpers in a row and breaks the game open. We love Mo around here and we’re happy for him that he’s having a really good year with the Clippers.”
Speights was excited to return to Golden State for the first time in a regular season game, but he was able to keep his emotions in check – at least before tip-off.
“I’m cool right now,” Speights said. “But I know when I go shoot right now, it’s probably going to be a little different.”
He returned to Oracle Arena on Saturday night a different player than the one who left.
This year with the Clippers, he’s already taken more than 100 3-point attempts than any previous season, and he’s hitting a career-high 40.4 percent of those attempts.
But that ability to thrive behind the arc was first groomed in Golden State, even if this year is the final result of that process.
His ability to “break the game open” started under Kerr, but it didn’t happen on a regular basis until his final year with the Warriors, when he took a then career-high 62 regular season 3-point attempts. Kerr saw the way Speights shot in practice from mid-range with ease, and didn’t see a reason why he couldn’t take a couple steps back.
The minute Kerr got the job, he said he knew Speights was capable of hitting long-range shots.
“I just asked him what he thought,” Kerr said. “That first year he wasn’t very comfortable with it, but last year, he really took it to heart. I think he spent a lot of time in that offseason, two summers ago, really working on his 3-point shot.”
Admittedly, Speights said, when he first got to Golden State he blamed himself for not being in the proper shape. But by year two with the Warriors, he was a solid contributor, scoring 10.4 points in his 15.9 minutes per game.
And from there, he said things took off. Still, the 3-point shot hadn’t yet evolved. In the regular season, he took 31 3-pointers his first season with the Warriors and 18 his second.
Finally, in his third and final season in Golden State, he made a sizable jump from deep, and now it’s become automatic.
Speights said it’s fun these days to hear teams yelling, ‘Run him off the line,’ particularly considering where he started from with his shot.
“That means you can really shoot it,” Speights said.
And as Rivers has found out, it doesn’t take much anymore to get Speights to pull the trigger from long distance.
“When Mo gets it, we have a theory – he’s shooting it,” Rivers said. “He shoots anything leather. A chair, a shoe, he’s going to shoot it. But that’s good, that’s what he does.”