Warriors

Struggling Speights: 'Mo Buckets will be back for sure'

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Struggling Speights: 'Mo Buckets will be back for sure'

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.”

Kevon Looney's lifestyle change has allowed him to reach a new level

Kevon Looney's lifestyle change has allowed him to reach a new level

SALT LAKE CITY -- There was a time, not long ago, when folks around the NBA wondered if Kevon Looney's unforgiving hips could make it in the league. And the feeling among many Warriors fans was, well, that’s OK.

The Warriors drafted Looney nine days after winning their first championship in 40 years. They had Stephen Curry, their first MVP since moving to the West Coast in 1962. They had Steve Kerr, a coach in whom they could believe. They had Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, none older than 25. The future looked bright.

If Looney, selected with the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, didn’t work out, no problem. The Warriors, playing the high risk/reward game, were open about his challenges, conceding from the start that he was a risk due to damaged hips that might not withstand the rigors of the NBA.

Two years and two surgeries later, in 2017-18, Looney was a solid contributor as the team won its third championship in four seasons. He started at center in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

This season, as the Warriors chase their third consecutive championship, Looney clearly has a future in the NBA, probably with the team that drafted him.

“He’s just gained more confidence,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says. “He’s more talkative; he’ll speak up in meetings. He knows he belongs. That’s really a key time in every player’s career, when you might make it the first couple years but you don’t really feel like you belong. He knows. He knows he belongs now. He’s going to have a long career, and a very productive one.”

Looney’s journey is about sheer perseverance and the highest levels of discipline. He always felt he could make it, so even in the darkest hours, when those surgically repaired hips were keeping him in the gym by day and awake at night, he never stopped believing.

“I know how far I’ve come,” he said. “It was frustrating coming back from the injuries. It was my first time going through something like that.”

Looney, 22, looked good last year. He still had a hitch in his gait, but he generally got where he needed to be. Through this training camp and the season opener on Tuesday night, he looks even better. The hitch is slight and he’s noticeably quicker.

The summer of 2017 was the first time he actually worked on his game, instead of going through rehab. The summertime is when most players seek to grow their games. After two seasons simply trying to get back to where he was, this was most encouraging.

But this past summer, spending endless hours in Los Angeles honing his game - even playing some one-on-one with teammate Kevin Durant -- is when Looney reached another level. It showed when the Warriors gathered in September.

“I’m excited about the growth I see in Loon,” Durant says.

“He had a great summer,’ Kerr says. “He looks great. For the second summer in a row, he’s put his body in position to perform at a high level. He’s been our best big in camp, and he had a fantastic first game.”

Looney played 18 minutes Tuesday night, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He was a team-best plus-23.

The single most significant factor in Looney’s progress was his devotion to conditioning. Seeing the results noted fitness trainer Amoila Cesar achieved with former Lakers forward Julius Randle, Looney reached out to Cesar in 2017, followed the regimen and came away with a new and far more sculpted physique.

A component of that is Looney developing a newfound dedication to diet, something that had been stressed earlier by veteran teammate Andre Iguodala, the team’s resident health nut.

“I wasn’t in shape my first two years,” Looney said. “I lifted hard, but I didn’t always eat right. I used to eat fast food a lot. I had to cut out fast food, cut back on most all fried foods, especially catfish and hot wings.

“Andre was telling me about this for two years, and I didn’t take it seriously until I had to.”

Looney dived into foods he once avoided. Kale. Spinach. Broccoli. Cauliflower. He rarely reaches for bread and even more rarely allows himself the guilty pleasure of his beloved flaming hot Doritos.

He doesn’t go to the dietary extremes to which Iguodala subjects himself -- no red meat, for example -- but Looney is reaping the benefits of a cleaner diet.

“I see something like that for Loon, and it’s got to be his routine -- but for the rest of his life,” Iguodala said. “I’m just trying to help him out.

“You don’t have to eat like me. But you have to be conscious of what you’re eating. You have to know yourself, know your body and know your DNA makeup. All of that plays a role into how long your career will be. You’ve got to have that in the back of your mind.”

When you sculpt your body well enough to go from the fringes of the NBA to a bright new future, it becomes easier to walk past the snack aisle at the grocery store.

The surgeries and lifestyle changes have erased all doubts about Looney having an NBA career. He’s past the can-he-make-it stage. He’s entering the how-good-can-he-be phase.

Which, at such young age, is a wonderful place to be.

Draymond Green knows 'the most important thing in contract negotiations'

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USATSI

Draymond Green knows 'the most important thing in contract negotiations'

Draymond Green will make just under $17.5 million this season and then just over $18.5 million next season.

He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020 but he is actually eligible to sign an extension right now.

Because the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year still has two years remaining on his current contract, the maximum amount he could sign for today is just under $100 million over four seasons (starting in 2020-21). It's very unlikely Draymond agrees to an extension now because he would be leaving a lot of money on the table.

[RELATED: Report: Klay Thompson does not plan on giving Warriors free-agent discount]

Whether he inks a new contract sometime this season, or next summer or in July 2020, he told Anthony Slater of The Athletic that he will be a very active participant in the negotiations:

Sometimes, you get guys who leave it up to somebody else, leave it up to an agent and then blame the agent when it doesn’t go how they like. First off, you need to understand the business. You need to understand whatever it is you need to know.

The most important thing in contract negotiations as a player is understanding what’s in front of you. So often, guys don’t. That’s one thing I’ll always be.

When I took less money (on my last contract) when KD was coming, I knew everything I was doing. And then I made my decision. I would never look back and be like, 'Ah, I took less money, (my agent) B.J. (Armstrong), screwed me.'

Nah, I knew everything that was going on — I knew how much money we had, I knew our books, I knew what we’d have next year, I knew what the cap would be, I knew what was the most I could take, I knew what the max was. I knew everything. Then I made my decision. That’s how it should be.

Just learn the business. You’re a CEO of your business. You are a business and you are the CEO of that.

This should not come as a surprise to anybody. Draymond is the guy who reportedly filed for a "Hampton 5" trademark.

It will be fascinating to see how the contract situations with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond play out.

But that's a conversation for another day.

"That is something we’ll all talk about when that time is here," Draymond told The Athletic. "But it’s not now. We’re trying to win a championship. We’re not focusing on that now. But that’s something we definitely will talk about."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller