OAKLAND–On Monday night at Oracle Arena, Warriors’ fans might be overcome with a sense of conflicting emotions.
There will be Mo Speights, there will be Mo’ Buckets, but this year, those buckets won’t count for Golden State.
With the Orlando Magic in town to finish off the Warriors’ four-game homestand, Golden State will play host to former Warriors’ role player Marreese Speights, who spent three seasons with the franchise and helped the team to its 2014-2015 NBA Championship under head coach Steve Kerr.
Though Monday’s game will not be Speights’ first reunion at Oracle Arena (Speights played for the Clippers last season), his arrival offered Kerr an opportunity to celebrate Speights’ shooting, and explain the origin of “Mo Buckets.”
When Speights first entered the league in 2008 with the Philadelphia 76ers, he wasn’t inclined to shoot from distance and he was hardly an impact scorer. But during the Warriors’ run to the NBA Finals in 2015, Speights became a beloved bench presence for Golden State for the instant energy he brought to the floor, and his penchant for knocking down jump shots.
“Love Mo Speights, one of my favorites,” Kerr said. “Just a huge heart and wonderful teammate. A guy who just stayed ready every game. We played him once every three days and for the two games that he didn’t play, he didn’t complain, he just smiled and worked. The third game that we would play him, he’d usually make four or five buckets. I would say over the course of two years when I was coaching, he probably personally won us eight to 10 games with his shooting. He was great for us and we miss having him here for sure.”
Despite being a role player with the Warriors, Speights averaged 8.5 field goal attempts per game during his second year with the team. Hence, the nickname.
These days, Speights is still knocking down buckets, but he’s become more inclined to shoot from beyond the arc, as he’s averaging 4.1 three-point attempts per game, which is four times as many attempts from three-point range as he averaged during his tenure with Golden State.
Speights has told Magic reporters he credits Kerr with building his confidence to step back and take deeper shots, and on Monday night, Kerr said he credits Speights’ willingness to adapt to the modern game as one of the many reasons for his success.
“He’s always been a great shooter, from the minute he stepped into this league, but it was more like 20-foot range. When I took the job and I was watching tape, it seemed like he was making a million 22-footers and it was just one step back, and I had been with Channing Frye in Phoenix when I was GM and Channing had made that transition. Channing, before he got to Phoenix, was a long two-point shooter, a great shooter but not really a three-shooter and he made that transition in Phoenix beautifully and became one of the best shooting bigs in the league and so I told Mo there’s no reason why you can’t add on a couple of feet to your range. He didn’t really do it the first year, but he did it the second year and I think over the last couple of seasons, he’s really becoming a three-point shooter and it’s the way the league is going and a guy like Mo almost has to the way he plays.”