ORLANDO MAGIC center Marreese Speights reflects on the advice he got from Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
Misses, poor shot selection hurt Magic
OAKLAND, Calif. — During the first month of their season, the Orlando Magic followed a simple formula on offense and had success with it. Push the pace. Move the ball. Find the open man.
On Monday night, the Magic abandoned their modus operandi against the most unforgiving of opponents, the Golden State Warriors.
Tied at halftime, the Magic unraveled during the third quarter, attempting too many contested shots early in the shot clock. The Warriors took advantage and dominated the period. The Magic never recovered and lost 110-100 at Oracle Arena.
Orlando made only five of its 18 shot attempts and committed four turnovers in the third quarter. An example of the Magic’s impatience occurred midway through the period. Already trailing 76-63, Aaron
step back” — were more profound than perhaps Kerr or Speights realized at the time. Inspired by the Warriors’ success and supported by advanced statistics, the NBA has embraced 3-point shooting like never before. Teams have begun to abandon the long 2-point jumpers that always had been the central part of Speights’ repertoire on offense. Kerr’s advice enhanced, and perhaps extended, Speights’ career.
“It’s very important, because you barely see people shooting mid-range jumpers,” Speights said Monday. “The 3-pointers and layups are all people are really shooting now. Sometimes you look at games and you see people about to shoot a 2, and they’ll just throw it out [to the perimeter] or throw it [inside] for a layup. The 3-pointer is a big key to this league right now.”
The impact of Kerr’s advice was especially poignant Monday night, when Speights’ Magic faced Kerr’s Warriors at Oracle Arena.
At 6-foot-10 and slow afoot, Speights doesn’t fit into the small-ball mold. He needed to diversify his game to remain relevant in the new NBA, and Kerr’s encouragement gave him the freedom to improve.
“It’s the way the league is going, and a guy like Mo almost has to be a 3-point shooter the way he plays,” Kerr said Monday.
“From the moment he stepped into this league he was a great shooter, but it was more like the 20-foot range,” Kerr added. “And when I took the job and I was watching tape, it seemed like he was making a million 22-footers and [the 3-point line] was just one step back. 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 2-point shooter — a great shooter but not really a 3-point shooter — and he made that transition in Phoenix beautifully and became one of the best-shooting bigs in the league.”
Speights didn’t take Kerr’s advice during the 2014-15 season, which was Kerr’s first season as the Warriors’ coach.
But Speights started to change during the 2015-16 season.
“I was just so scared to shoot 3s that if I shoot and miss I’m going to come out of the game,” Speights said. “But he gave me confidence. [He said,] ‘Take one step back and shoot it.’ ”
Speights, 30, has rushed headfirst into the 3-point trend ever since.
Last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, he attempted 3.4 treys a game and made 37.2 percent of them.
Speights has provided instant offense off the bench for Orlando, too. Through Sunday, he had launched 4.1 treys a game in limited minutes for the Magic and made 43.2 percent of his attempts. His long-range accuracy has stretched opposing defenses and created opportunities for his teammates.
On Oct. 30, Speights offered a glimpse of his value. He lifted the Magic to a road win over the New Orleans Pelicans because of his outside shooting. Speights scored 18 points off the bench, making six of his 10 attempts from 3-point range.
Speights’ uncanny ability to score immediately after he comes in off the bench doesn’t surprise Kerr.
“I love Mo Speights,” Kerr said. “[He’s] one of my favor- ites. [He has] just a huge heart. [He’s a] wonderful teammate — a guy who just stayed ready every game. We played him like once every three games, and the two games that he didn’t play, he never complained. 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 or 10 games with his shooting.”
Kerr helped make that possible.
Speights and the Magic are thankful.
Orlando’s Jonathon Simmons (17) scores over Golden State’s Omri Casspi in Monday night’s game.
While Magic coach Frank Vogel calls Marreese Speights (5) a great passer, it’s his longrange accuracy that stretches defenses and creates opportunities for his teammates.