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Marreese Speights settles into familiar role with Clippers

Marreese Speights settles into familiar role with Clippers
Clippers center Marreese Speights, right, tries to fire up the crowd as Trail Blazers guard Allen Crabbe walks away during the first half on Nov. 9. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Marreese Speights took just eight three-point shots as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2008-09 season.

Then in successive seasons,  Speights' three-point shots steadily increased, culminating with   a career-high 68  attempts last season with the Golden State Warriors.

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Speights is still putting up the long ball this season for the Clippers. So, what's turned the 6-foot-11 big man into a gunslinger?

"I just started freestyling it. If a coach takes me out, he takes me out," Speights said.

Speights paused and chuckled, even bending over as his teammates laughed at his reasoning.

When he played for the Warriors, Speights was encouraged by Coach Steve Kerr to keep up his freestyling ways. Kerr's confidence is his range led Speights  to a career-high 38.7% shooting percentage from behind the arc  last season.

"I'd say it started really last year," Speights said. "I always could shoot. I used to just shoot 15-, 18-footers. Then I was looking at film and saw I was standing right by the three-point line when I was shooting, so I just stepped back one more foot."

The Clippers get a kick  out of seeing Speights hoist one of his bombs, with his teammates  throwing their hands in the air as soon as the ball takes flight.

Before the Clippers played the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, Speights had connected on 32% of his three-pointers this season..

The Clippers have found that Speights can contribute in more ways than just his ability to knock down the outside shot.

Though he's sixth on the team in scoring (9.1 points), Speights has shown he can rebound the ball (4.2), play defense, pass and be productive in his role off the bench as the backup center behind DeAndre Jordan.

"He stretches the floor, and he's smart too," Blake Griffin said. "He gets buckets, but he knows when to make the next play, when to take a shot, when to be aggressive, when to take a foul. He's good at that. He makes the game easier for us."

The road to success hasn't always been easy for Speights.

His dad, Wilbur Speights, didn't see his son play basketball until Speights was 23, during a charity game at a recreation center in Florida after his rookie season.

"Yeah, my dad was in prison most of my whole life," Speight said. "That's one of the reasons why he never had seen me play."

His dad has spent 15 years locked up for crimes such as grand theft, attempted armed robbery and cocaine possession.

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But Speights had a strong support system, anchored by his  mother Regina Glenn-Speights.

"My mom was my mom and my dad," Speights said. "So, I feel like if my dad was in my life, I probably would never be here.

"I never really looked at a situation like that and said I hate the situation that I was in. My dad was with me when I was younger, for like two years. So, let's just say those kinds of things happen for a reason. So it's all good."

Twitter:@BA_Turner

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