Insofar as Marreese Speights trusts his shot, which is the key to his NBA success, the Warriors big man has spent the summer working on another aspect of his game.
He’s focusing on fitness and conditioning, realizing it is the key to his longevity.
Mo Buckets or Less Speights? Or can he be both?
Speights has changed his diet, trimming out certain fats and dairy products. And no fewer than four times a week, he endures punishing workouts at a boxing gym set up in a warehouse in greater St. Petersburg. There is no air conditioning, only the sauna-like humidity natural to Florida.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Speights said Wednesday during a phone interview.
Speights wants to reward the Warriors for picking up the team option on the final year of his contract next season, when he’ll make $3.815 million. That’s a relative bargain for the man who ranked 10th in the league in points per minute.
Speights, listed at 6-foot-10, 255 pounds, conceded that he “got a little big” late in the season. Though he was unwilling to divulge his precise weight loss, his slimmer physique has been evident in photos posted on Twitter and Instagram.
The 90-minute sessions at the gym include jump rope, shadow boxing and working the mitts with a trainer.
“That’s the thing I’ve been most consistent about doing this summer,” Speights said. “Trying to get my body right, trying to get my wind right. That’s what I’ve been focusing on. It’s one of the best workouts to get your body in shape and lose weight.”
This is a quest for more consistent minutes. Speights wants to be too valuable to leave on the bench for entire games; he had five DNP-CDs in the regular season and three more in the postseason. He also noted that his minutes dropped from an average of 15.9 per game in the regular season to 6.7 per game in the postseason.
After missing a dunk in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against Cleveland, Speights played only two minutes over the remaining four games.
“Stuff like that always wakes you up,” he said.
“But I always tell people I’ll miss a dunk anytime if it means winning a championship.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr constantly talked about the need for players to sacrifice for the greater good. They all did, none more than David Lee and Speights. Yet Speights was productive enough to earn the nickname Mo Buckets. Some referred to him as the third “Splash Brother,” aligning him with sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
“Last year was one of the best years I’ve ever had,” Speights said. “In most every aspect, I was at the top of my game. I was sizzling in some games, coming through big in some games. And, still, at the end of the day, minutes got cut.
“So coming into this year, I’m going to prepare differently so that I’ll come into camp in the best shape I’ve ever been. And hopefully that will give me a chance to get more consistent minutes.”
Speights, who on Tuesday celebrated his 28th birthday, is entering his prime. He’s also will be an unrestricted free agent after next season.
He insists, though, that his new commitment to conditioning is not about setting himself up for a big payday elsewhere – even though a strong season could push his price tag beyond the amount the Warriors could fit into their salary structure.
“I’d rather be on a team where I have to sacrifice whatever it takes to win a championship,” Speights said. “Yeah, it might be good to go try to get a lot of money somewhere else, maybe build up a lot of stats. But why not be on a team like this? I’d rather stay in a situation like this and have a chance to win championships."