Former Warrior Marreese Speights Becoming Voice of Reason for LA Clippers
PLAYA VISTA, CA Marreese Speights ambled into the Los Angeles Clippers’ training facility, decked out in sweatpants and a self-referential “I Got 5 On It” shirt, looking every bit the happy-go-lucky guy that NBA teams and fans have come to know and love.
But the man who stepped in front of the microphones and recorders before practice on Thursday sounded little like Mo Buckets.
Nor did he the night before, when Speights shared his frustration in the locker room following the Clippers’ 115-98 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors, the team with whom he’d spent the last three seasons.
First we need to start really just leaving the refs alone, Speights said at the time.Guys just got to sacrifice, do some other things than scoring, do some other things than your personal goals. Just try something new.Theyve been doing it here for four or five years and it hasnt been working, so its time to try something new.
Like Ron Burgundy jumping into the bear pit, Speights seemed to regret his decision to speak his mind the way he did.
”You just want to win,” he said. “You just want to do it the right way, want to do it for a great coach like Doc and the city of L.A. Thats something that maybe I shouldve said a little different, but Im not calling nobody out by it.”
Still, there were some hard truths in what Speights said, even if the ClippersMr. Buckets includeddidn’t necessarily agree with his comments the day after.
Chris Paul, Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin all drew technical fouls for arguing with the referees. According to Sporting Charts, those upped L.A.’s team total to 20 techssixth-most in the league and one behind the Warriors.
That actually counts as an improvement for this group, which topped the Association in technical fouls four times during Paul’s first five seasons in L.A.
“Weve just got to play and understand that theyre human and theyre going to make mistakes,” J.J. Redick said of the referees. “I dont think anything theyre doing is personal or anything like that. I dont think we have it worse than any other team. Theyre the best refs in the world. Weve just got to stay off of them.”
Rivers, on the other hand, dismissed Speights’ concerns about the Clippers hounding the officials as “being frustrated after the game. It was an easy target in the conversation.”
The box score bore out Speights’ warnings about selfishness, to a degree. Against the Warriors, the Clippers notched just 15 assists on 36 makes19, if you’re generous enough to include their three secondary assists and one free-throw assist, per NBA.com.
Despite making a concerted effort to improve their ball movement during the preseason, and carrying that work into the start of the 2016-17 campaign, L.A. has since slipped to the middle of the pack (or worse) in just about every category related to sharing.
Clippers’ Sharing Stats, 2016-17 Stat Rank Assists/Game 22.0 17th Assist Percentage 56.9 14th Secondary Assists/Game 5.3 15th Free Throw Assists/Game 2.3 10th Potential Assists/Game 41.8 24th Points Created by Assist/Game 53.0 13th Passes Made/Game 306.1 13th Assist-to-Pass Percentage 7.2 15th NBA.com/stats
Rivers, though, didn’t for more information see L.A.’s offensive stagnation against Golden State as an indication of more deep-seeded issues within the team.
“I dont think we have an agenda team. I think we have proven that,” he said. “But last night, the ball didnt move. So thats a player [saying] like, ‘Move the ball.’ I tell Mo that all the time too. ‘Move the ball.'”
Rivers, instead, explained the stickiness of the Clippers offense as a function of guys tryingtoohard to be heroes on their own.
“We came to the game with good intentions,” he said. “Sometimes, you want to beat a team so bad that you cant beat the team. Thats what I saw. I thought we put so much pressure on ourselves to win that game that we were in the way of ourselves.”
L.A.’s reasons for wanting to win that badly were abundant. The team came into its game on Wednesday having lost four of its previous six overall and six in a row against Golden Statenot including the 45-point preseason blowout at Oracle Arena. The latest meeting, while only the 23rd of 82 dates on the Clippers’ schedule, was this club’s first real chance to measure itself against the Western Conference titan through which all roads to the NBA Finals are bound to pass.
“Weve still got to be as good as them, and were not,” Rivers said, “but were better than that.”
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
How, then, do the Clippers get back to being the powerhouse they were through the first three weeks of the season, rather than the inconsistent squad they’ve been over the past two?
“Weve got to play with some joy,” Redick said. “Basketball is meant to be fun. Were serious. Weve got to be prepared. Weve got to follow the game plan and all that. I just think that were better when we play with joy.”
“It shouldnt be a burden to play great teams. It should be fun to compete against teams like the Warriors.”
Speights could be one to bring some of that spirit back to a group that seems to have lost it. He has brought and can bring a fresh inflection to cut through the occasionally stale air that surrounds a Clippers core that’s been together for more than three years now.
“I think its always good to hear voices,” Rivers said, “butjust because you hear voices from the outside doesnt mean theyre right. Theyve got to learn the inside too.”
Speights is feeling his way through it, just as these Clipperswith six new faces on the roster this seasonare still searching for themselves.
“Were going through a transition to become a different team, to be pioneers of the NBA,” he said. “We understand were going to get a lot of teams best and really just stop overthinking a little bit.”
”Two weeks ago, s–t, man, we were rolling,” Redick said. “Hopefully well get back to it.”
All stats accurate as of games played on Dec. 7, 2016. All quotes obtained firsthand.
Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him onTwitter,InstagramandFacebook.