Editor's Note: The above video is from Oct. 15, 2016.
PHOENIX – Kevon Looney was the last Warrior off the practice court early Saturday evening, trudging off only after sprinting himself to the brink of exhaustion.
He’s never been so giddy about working so hard.
That’s because, finally, he can. The second-year forward, still only 20, is excited to push himself toward his physical limits without his body screaming in protest.
Asked how long it has been since he felt this healthy on the court, Looney paused for a few seconds.
“I would probably say my senior year of high school,” he told CSNBayArea.com.
It shows. Coming off the bench in the second half Friday night in New Orleans, Looney made a positive impact at both ends. Playing only seven hyperactive minutes, he totaled 4 points, three rebounds, two assists – and a sparkling plus-13 on the stat sheet.
“We went to him just because of the circumstances,” Kerr said afterward, noting that his rotation changed because Draymond Green was in foul trouble and rookie guard Pat McCaw was injured in the first half.
“It seems like every time we’ve thrown Looney out there . . . he’s gotten the job done,” Kerr added. “He’s one of those guys, he doesn’t look that fast and doesn’t look like he jumps very high. But he knows what he’s doing and he makes plays.”
Looney was a McDonald’s All-America recruit out of Hamilton High in Milwaukee. He fell in love with UCLA, partly because of its tradition and partly because it was an escape from the harsh Wisconsin winters.
Shortly after arriving on campus, Looney made one false step and his hip yelped. He played through it well enough as a freshman to be chosen by the Warriors in the first round of the 2015 draft knowing the UCLA product might need a physical makeover.
The thinking, as conveyed by general manager Bob Myers, was that Looney was a lottery pick talent devalued by his medical report. The Warriors, with nearly everybody back from a championship team, were willing to be patient.
Looney underwent surgery on his right hip two months after the draft and eight months later, last April, had surgery on his left hip. He missed all but 21 minutes of his rookie season.
He literally had to re-learn how to walk and run. Twice.
And now he’s learning to live with the good health most NBA players take for granted.
“I feel more confident now than I did before, when I was playing with the injury, even in college,” Looney said. “I was scared to dribble and change directions because it would hurt to do it.”
Looney is trying to get his muscles and mind to remember what he once did as routine. Closing out hard on defense, for example. He hesitated at UCLA because he was afraid to tweak his hip. His comfort with dribbling increases a bit each day, and his natural shooting stroke is starting to resurface.
For what it’s worth, Looney in high school was perceived as similar at that level to one of his new teammates. A former MVP and four-time scoring champ. A guy named Kevin Durant. The long body, the longer wingspan and the shooting range surely were factors in that unfair comparison.
Though Looney is a long way from Durant, and realistically will not get to that level, he is OK with that. He’s occupied with seeing how high and how long he can go with his new and improved body.
“Being out so long, it takes a long time to get back,” Looney said. “Even if your body feels good, you still have to get your game legs and get used to the physical impact of traveling. It’s going to take a while to get used to.
“But the hardest part is over. Now it’s just about getting back my feel and working on the things I shied away from.”