The Golden State Warriors improve to 61-6. 50 straight home wins in a row for the first time across the four major professional sports. Records are breaking left, right, sideways, and in all different types of fashion. And just when things get a tad repetitive, Marreese Speights throws the entire equilibrium for a twist. He's been building on this for over a year now. Steve Kerr has talked to him about it, we've all joked about it, but now it's arrived.
Marreese Speights 3-point shot is fun and games until it starts to really mess with opposing defenses, to the point that he's shooting them not as a victory cigar tribute but as a way to mess centers in another torturous manner. As if the split cut actions aren't unfathomably difficult to deal with, Kerr is inserting Speights in for the final couple minutes of the first quarter with the starters and adding an ostensible 4th shooter on the floor. With the movement that's a prerequisite for this offense, this twist is not so unforeseen but somehow a win for the defense. It's not pick-your-poison anymore, it's just death.
After the game, Steve Kerr admitted he spoke to Speights before last season, before he came on board as coach, about stepping one more foot out to take that 3. What also helps is that most if not all centers are unwilling to step out that far. Kyle O'Quinn, although an undersized center, just isn't used to stepping out past the free throw line. While Draymond Green is blowing by opposing bigs with his quickness, Speights is splashing from afar with no one in the vicinity.
Here's Kerr on his confidence in Speights, "He's always been a great shooter but for whatever reason his range has been to only about 22 feet. We wanted him to shoot more 3s last year. He never really felt comfortable with it and this year he's more comfortable and confident from that range. Anytime he's open i want him to take that 3."
Though this is not a weapon fully usable against all opponents, employed against a team with a slower center and a less slash-heavy offense, the Speights-at-C lineup becomes extremely friendly. In spurts against teams like Memphis, Los Angeles, and even Oklahoma City in the postseason, these lineups with enough defense from Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston on the wings should paper over those bench minutes that create zero offense and less pace.
Even Stephen Curry jokingly admitted, "He's auditioning for that Splash Cousin name."
As the Warriors get deeper and deeper into the trenches of the regular season, where coasting, relaxing, and resting start to manifest itself even on the most competitive of teams, they seem to improve. The defense has a bit of work left in terms of extrapolating the effort they put out during crunchtime. On offense, Kerr has admitted he has scaled nothing back, unlike last season. Everything from here on out is within the flow of the vision he had when he first started coaching in Oakland.
While the latent improvements of Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson has pushed the Warriors to the lands of the greatest unknown, Speights shooting is threatening to push this style and dominance to another stratosphere. As Kevin Love was once coveted as the stretch-y shooting big man GSW needed, and the void Draymond aptly filled, Speights is doing those things just fine.
Steve Kerr will have options when the postseason comes along in seeing which big man out of Speights, Bogut, and Festus Ezeli to play. For now, the prospect of what each can bring, and most specifically the release valve and range of Speights is garnering all imaginations real.
"History, keep making history. Every game from now on is history."
Speights, without pausing a single instant to stop the smile etched across his face the past month, isn't lying.