OAKLAND –- He’s a rhythm shooter, a willing defender and an exuberant presence among the Warriors.
And while he’s delighted with his NBA championship ring and loves being a member of the undefeated Warriors, that doesn’t mean Marreese Speights is pleased with the way his season is unfolding.
Minutes have been spotty, and so has his usually reliable shot. Mo Buckets has been almost No Buckets. The reserve center/forward can’t pretend it isn’t gnawing it him.
“I just need to go out there and play without looking over my shoulder,” Speights exclusively told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday. “Just stop trying to worry that if I make a mistake, I’ll come out of the game. I can’t play like that.”
After being the team’s top scoring option off the bench last season, gaining the nickname “Mo Buckets,” Speights this season has struggled shooting and committed a few turnovers while also missing a few defensive assignments.
All of which has sent him further down the bench. He has played a total of 17 minutes over the last six games, two of which were dreaded DNP-CDs: Did Not Play, Coach’s Decision.
It’s no coincidence the two DNPs followed his worst showing of the season, at Memphis, when Speights in five minutes of action missed all three of his shots and committed three turnovers – hardly enough to offset two blocked shots.
Still, as his minutes go down, Speights is trying to keep his spirits up.
“Every year, it always comes back to this,” he said. “Getting DNPs, getting (pulled) in and out of the lineup. It always comes back. So I’m used to it.
“I’m a team player. If I have to take DNPs or whatever, sit out, if we’re very successful I can’t do anything about that. I know I can do damage in this league if opportunity is given. And everybody knows that. Everybody knows that if I get time, I’m going to do what I do. If I have to sacrifice, sitting on the bench getting DNPs, it’s not fun but it’s sacrifice. And everybody has to sacrifice.”
After shooting 49.2 percent from the field last season, Speights is at 33.9 – lowest on the team. His 2-of-3 shooting against Toronto on Tuesday, coming off those back-to-back DNPs, was the second time this season he made more than half his shots.
Entering the final season of a three-year contract he signed with the Warriors in 2013, this is not kind of statement he envisioned making. The ineffectiveness, along with the play of centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, have made Speights the odd man out.
Interim coach Luke Walton, a former teammate of Speights (Cleveland, 2012-13), indicated Speights is in this position partly through his own play and partly because he’s behind Bogut and Ezeli.
“With Mo, the biggest thing for us is on the defensive end,” Walton said. “We obviously know what he’s capable of doing on offense and how much he helps us. He’s going to continue to get opportunities. He’s going to continue to help us win ballgames this year. For him, the biggest thing is to bring it on the defensive end every time he gets in.”
Meanwhile, Mo Buckets awaits the opportunity to earn, as he puts it, Mo Time.
“It’s still November, so I have a lot of time,” Speights said. “A lot of things are going to happen, and I’m going to get an opportunity again to go out there and play. And when I go out there, Mo Buckets will be back for sure.”