Looney continues to thrive, soaks up knowledge from Warriors' vets

Looney continues to thrive, soaks up knowledge from Warriors' vets

OAKLAND – To fill the void left with the summer departures of centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, the Warriors added three veterans and came away content with how well they shopped on a tight budget.

Six games into the season, though, they may be more excited about a fourth big man.

Kevon Looney isn’t new to the Warriors, but he’s new to having a role with the team. The 6-foot-9 forward/center is, in essence, a high-value 2015 first-round draft pick that’s arriving one year late.

“He’s playing well,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after practice Sunday. “He’s playing very well.”

Having overcome surgeries on both hips over the past 15 months, Looney is rapidly becoming a significant member of the team’s rotation. He in many ways has been as effective as any big man off the bench, despite the lack of bounce in his legs, the absence of a jump shot, and the running gait of an achy senior citizen.

The Warriors still like and need veterans Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee. But Looney, 20, is working his way into their hearts.

“He just has a really good feel for the game,” Kerr said. “He’s not going to wow you with anything athletically, but he’s just always in the right spot and making the right play.”

Looney once again acquitted himself well in a blowout loss Friday night to the Lakers, scoring 11 points – on 5-of-5 shooting – and grabbing five rebounds in 13 minutes. Playing 11 minutes in the previous game, at Portland, he recorded six rebounds and made 2-of-2 shots.

Moreover, Looney vows it will get better as he improves his conditioning. He estimates he’s reached about “75 percent” of his optimal training level, and teammate Draymond Green seems to agree.

“I don’t even think he knows what a second wind is,” said Green, among several Warriors dispensing tips to Looney.

The importance of Looney to the Warriors can be distilled to this: He’s able to make an impact in the paint. With a 7-foot-3 wingspan and tremendous instincts, he gives Kerr a third “big man” option off the bench, with West and McGee.

While improving his conditioning and searching for his offensive rhythm, Looney is doing his part to soak up knowledge from the veterans, particularly Green and West.

“You just try to give him little tips on what to do,” Green said of his input. “On the defensive side of the ball, how do you make up for that lack of size, or not being the super athlete? I just try to teach him about positioning and all those things. That’s something that’ll come with time. That’s something he’ll get better at.

“But he has some things about him that you just can’t teach. He has a nose for the basketball. He’s always in the right place, and you can’t teach that.”

Pachulia is, for now, entrenched as the starter. West has been the first big man off the bench, but has played fewer minutes than Looney in each of the past two games.

As long as Looney’s body holds up and he continues to deliver, change is bound to come. To be determined is how soon.

Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays


Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays

OAKLAND -- When he returns to the Warriors, likely on Friday, Stephen Curry will alter nothing about his game despite coming off a four-month period during which his surgically repaired right ankle endured multiple aggravations.

He’ll be the same Curry that fans have come to know, diving into passing lanes on defense while firing up 3-pointers and darting in and out of paint traffic on offense.

It’s the only way he knows how to play, and he’s played long enough to accept that it comes with risk.

“When I wake up in the morning I’ll know the difference between my right (ankle) and my left,” Curry said Thursday after practice. “But that won’t stop me from being who I am on the floor and having confidence in myself when I get back out there.”

Curry missed 11 games after spraining his ankle on Dec. 4 in New Orleans. He missed two games after tweaking it in shootaround on Jan 10. He missed no games after tweaking it March 2 in Atlanta. He has missed the last six games after tweaking it on March 8 against the Spurs.

“I’ve been very durable over the course of my career,” said Curry, who is listed as probable but fully expects to play Friday against Atlanta. “It’s just that I’ve had three untimely, freak accidents happen.”

Curry stepped on E’twaun Moore’s foot in New Orleans, on Zaza Pachulia’s foot in Atlanta and Dejounte Murray’s foot against the Spurs at Oracle Arena.

Not once in the previous five regular seasons did Curry miss significant time due to his tricky ankle. He missed a total of 16 games during that span, never more than four in a season, and six of those were for reasons of rest.

This season, however, has tested Curry’s patience like nothing since 2011-12, after which he had his second ankle surgery. He concedes that being in and out of the lineup has left him at times feeling “boredom, monotony and frustration.”

Though some of that can be attributed to the rehab process, there is no doubt part of that stems from watching the Warriors from the sideline.

With Curry out of the lineup this season, the Warriors are 13-8 (he missed one game with a hand bruise, another with a thigh bruise). That they are 40-10 when he’s in the lineup illustrates his importance.

It’s not just that he’s important. Curry is the catalyst for the offense and he can only be that if he is playing without regard for the possibility of injury. A hesitant Curry can’t be an effective Curry, so full throttle is the only way to go.

"If we’re trying to win a championship, I need to be out there,” he said. “That’s a given. We want every single guy out there, healthy and available, myself included. That’s the ideal situation.”

If he gets hurt along the way, so be it. As man of faith, he believes that anything that happens is influenced by a higher power.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting 3s or pullups are going into the lane or playing defense, that’s liable to happen any time,” Curry said. “Other than those instances, I haven’t had anything to worry about on the injury front. We are prisoners of the moment when it comes (playing the game). I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I have to change anything based on me being a durable player and being on the court consistently.

“Down the line, if you ask me about it in three of four years, there might be something I might need to change. But not right now.”

There is a segment of fans, worried about Curry’s health and realizing it is tied to the fate of the team, who would like him to dial back his aggression. Maybe avoid the paint and settle for more jump shots. He’s heard the advice and is not unwilling to launch a few more shots from deep.

But Curry is going to go where he sees daylight, and the best chance to make a positive play. He’ll take his chances because hesitation has no place in his mind or his game.


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'

Back in late October, the Warriors declined their $2.3 million team option on Kevon Looney for the 2018-19 season.

How did that make him feel?

"It was kind of a let down," Looney told Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson on the Warriors Plus/Minus Podcast. "I knew it was up in the air. It was going back and forth, back and forth. When they didn't pick it up -- they told me why, I understood, I've been here for three years, I've seen a lot of players come and go; I know basketball is a business -- I was kind of let down.

"But I knew I was going to try and make the most of it. Now I'm playing for my contract for next year. I just wanted to go prove myself. I knew this summer there was a lot of doubts about what I could do. People were doubting if I would even be in the NBA still ... I knew what I was capable of."

Looney underwent surgery on his right hip in August 2015, and appeared in just five games during his rookie season.

He then had surgery on his left hip in April 2016, and appeared in 53 games (8.4 minutes per night) during the 2016-17 season.

This year, he's averaging career highs in points (3.5), rebounds (2.9), blocks (0.7) and minutes (12.0).

"This summer, I decided I just wanted to try go back to the way I played in college. It's been working for me," Looney explained. "I lost about 30 pounds this offseason and it's really made me a lot faster and a lot quicker. And I've been staying healthy."

How did he drop all that weight?

"A lot of broccoli and turkey and plain food. Food that wasn't that good but it's something that I had to get used to," Looney said. "Taco Bell, fried chicken, I was eating that on the regular ... coming off of injury, you can't eat like that. It's a different level of intensity in the NBA.

"I had to change my diet. Andre (Iguodala) was in my ear for two years about it. I finally listened to him and it paid off."

Looney will become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Although the Warriors declined the option, the 22-year old could return to Golden State -- but the max amount the Warriors can offer him is $2.3 million.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller