By: Christian Dudley (@ChristianDudley)
With "Mo Buckets" himself, "Blu3 World Order" looks back at the days Marreese Speights spent with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Blu3 World Order was able to speak with former Memphis Grizzlies big man Marreese Speights to gain insight into his two-season tenure in the 901.
Speights, now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, is the 42nd individual to win both an NCAA Championship (with the University of Florida Gators in 2007) and an NBA World Championship (with the Golden State Warriors in 2015).
In-between these two major accomplishments, Marreese spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers (drafted 16th overall by them in 2008), Memphis Grizzlies, and Cleveland Cavaliers. He has been solid in any role he has been assigned -- starter or reserve.
The path Marreese Speights' NBA career would take was uncertain as a young NBA prospect in Philadelphia. The 76ers had high hopes for Speights at first, but the team really did not have an identity. They had some talent on the roster at time, but not enough to consider them to be a contender. They were within the Eastern Conference's playoff race, but lacking enough firepower to be a real threat.
It was a unique series of events for Speights. He needed to be placed in a system where he was valued. Meanwhile, in the NBA's Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies had a major issue they needed to solve quickly.
Zach Randolph, just days into the 2011-12 regular season following the cancellation of the dreadful Lockout, sustained a significant injury which sidelined the Grizzlies' leader for greater than two months.
Things were spiraling out of control for Grizz fans at this point.
Memphis had a created a tremendous upset of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 Playoffs. The league was finally taking notice of the Grizz and so much momentum had been built. Then the Lockout hit, stalling the season in its tracks. Though an agreement was reached and the Lockout came to a screeching halt in mid-December of 2011, the Z-Bo injury spelled doom for Memphis -- or so many people thought.
All of a sudden, the Grizzlies needed a starting-caliber power forward who was capable of a producing a nightly double-double, yet could complement center Marc Gasol exquisitely.
The Grizzlies' Front Office hit the phones trying to swing a quick deal. They dangled prospect Xavier Henry in talks -- a desperate decision at the time. They eventually reached an agreement on a three-team transaction which landed them Marreese Speights.
This was a huge moment of opportunity for Speights, who says "when Z-Bo went down and when I got traded [to Memphis], I was blessed to be able to help that team, that city, and those fans."
The shortened season was definitely not over for the Grizzlies. It was just beginning.
"When he went down, they thought the season was over, but Coach [Lionel Hollins] gave me a chance to come in there and play and help the team," explains Speights.
M-Town was more than thankful. "Mo Buckets," as he is now called following his time spent with the Golden State Warriors, quickly became a favorite of many. That has stuck with the 6' 10" ex-Gator.
"When I was in Memphis, the fans were great on and off the court. So when I come back there and play, they still show me so much love."
After starting in 54 of 60 games played in the shortened season for the Memphis Grizzlies, Mo earned respect around town with his 25 double-figure-scoring performances. Playing with a veteran group, he learned plenty of lessons as a youngster, which has led to him being an NBA World Champion today. It has been about playing for the name on the front of the jersey.
"I learned from Tony Allen, Marc, and Z-Bo," proclaims Speights. "They love Memphis, so I learned so much from them."
Not only was Mo surrounding by focused veterans, but it was beneficial to him to be mentored by a tough-nosed coach in Lionel Hollins.
Hollins was known to be all-business. You could see it on his face on the sidelines. You could hear it in his voice in press conferences. It was not an act.
"Coach LH was a good coach. He didn't take no BS. He will let you know when you are not playing good," Marreese stated. "I had a good relationship with him because he saw what I could do and help me reboot my career."
It was the perfect match. You could somewhat say Marreese Speights was Z-Bo 2.0 for a period of time. It was even more acceptable of a comparison when he began to post stat lines of 15 (twice) and 18 rebounds versus various opponents, including a 20-point, 18-rebound effort in a road victory against the New Jersey Nets.
Memphis unfortunately had to pull the trigger on a trade in which they sent Speights, Josh Selby, and Wayne Ellington to the Cleveland Cavaliers in early January of 2013. It saved the team from paying luxury tax, but they had to suffer from being without "Mo Buckets."
The trade wound up not being a bad thing for Speights. In the 2014-15 season, his Golden State Warriors defeated the Grizzlies in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals. Along with Stephen Curry & company, Mo earned an NBA World Championship ring.
"Winning a championship is every kid's dream, so to be able to be one of those 15 guys in the world at that moment, it was truly a blessing," reminisces Speights.
Now, as a Los Angeles Clipper, Marreese Speights continues to be an important player in the association. He appeared in all 82 regular season contests for the Clippers in 2016-17.
"That was my first time playing all 82 games. I was so proud to do that because guys don't do that in this league that much."
His secret to good health?
"I had a new trainer that helped me during the offseason to get my body right and prepared to play every night. Also, it's about taking care of your body -- putting the right stuff in it," explains Speights.
The "Grit-'N'-Grind" era has taken a massive hit within the past week with Zach Randolph signing a new contract with the Sacramento Kings. Though this move makes Memphis' heart ache, they must still be appreciative of the contributions by Marreese Speights in the portions of two seasons he donned the Grizz uniform.
Marreese Speights mended "GNG" together in 2012 when the era sustained damage to their lineup. It may not have been a long tenure in Memphis by Mo in terms of time, but he remains one of the most important role players in Memphis Grizzlies history.
Once a Grizzly, always a Grizzly. If the opportunity ever presents itself again in the future for Mo Speights, "I would love to come back to Memphis and play. It's like home."
"Blu3 World Order" thanks Marreese Speights for taking time out of his busy offseason to speak with us.