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OAKLAND -- Before his Oklahoma City Thunder went out to do battle against the Warriors in Game 1, coach Billy Donovan took time out to pay tribute to opposing big man Marreese Speights, who played two seasons at the University of Florida under Donovan and...

Billy Donovan has kind words for Marreese Speights

OAKLAND -- Before his Oklahoma City Thunder went out to do battle against the Warriors in Game 1, coach Billy Donovan took time out to pay tribute to opposing big man Marreese Speights, who played two seasons at the University of Florida under Donovan and...

Billy Donovan has kind words for Marreese Speights

OAKLAND -- Before his Oklahoma City Thunder went out to do battle against the Warriors in Game 1, coach Billy Donovan took time out to pay tribute to opposing big man Marreese Speights, who played two seasons at the University of Florida under Donovan and was part of the Gators' 2007 championship team.

Donovan sees a different player now, and a better one.

"I think he's really grown a lot," Donovan said. "Obviously I only had him for two years, but I think one of the things that helped Mo when he was at Florida is our front line was pretty extraordinary. We had (Al) Horford and (Joakim) Noah and Chris Richard, all those guys who got drafted. Mo was a freshman, and I think playing against those guys helped him. Obviously, as a sophomore, he moved into more of a primary role."

One thing that Speights always had, even at Florida, was his ability to score.

"The one thing that always amazed me with him was his touch for a big man," Donovan said. "He has great hands and he can shoot. He has a real good feel for the game, and he's a great teammate and a great guy. He has a good heart, and I think leaving early like he did, I'm sure there's a tremendous transition he had to go through in terms of getting into great shape, working and understanding the NBA game.

"But I've always loved Mo as a guy, and it's great to see him stay in the league as long as he has and have the success that he's had."

Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.

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