Warriors

Kevon Looney reacts to Steve Kerr calling him 'foundational piece'

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AP

Kevon Looney reacts to Steve Kerr calling him 'foundational piece'

Programming note: Watch the NBA Finals pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Thursday, May 30 at 4:00 p.m., streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Kevon Looney registered 12 points, 14 rebounds, one steal and one block in the Golden State Warriors' Game 4 Western Conference finals win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

After the victory, head coach Steve Kerr said something quite powerful.

“Looney has become one of our foundational pieces," he told reporters.

Kevon Looney. Foundational piece.

Let that sink in.

Two months after the Warriors selected the UCLA product with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, he underwent surgery on his right hip.

Then in April 2016, he had surgery on his left hip.

In late October 2017, the Dubs elected to decline his $2.23 million option for the 2018-19 season, which put Looney's future in the NBA very much in jeopardy.

But things started to click in Year 3 and he seemingly always produced when Kerr called his number. By the end of last season, Looney was playing so well that it looked like he had become too expensive for the Warriors to retain.

Unfortunately for Looney, he didn't receive any offers in free agency and he returned to the Dubs on a minimum deal.

This season, the 23-year old averaged career highs in minutes (18.5), points (6.3), field goal percentage (62.5), rebounds (5.2) and assists (1.5).

During the playoffs, he's averaging 7.5 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting over 72 percent overall and 80 percent from the free throw line.

And his ability to defend guards in isolation has made him invaluable. 

“To be called a foundational piece, I never would’ve believed that,” Looney said to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “Even when I was playing pretty good last season, I never would’ve taken it that far.”

Earlier this year, Looney's alma mater -- Hamilton High School in Milwaukee -- held a ceremony to retire his jersey. Yes, the big man grew up in Milwaukee and there's a chance the Warriors face his hometown Bucks in the NBA Finals.

What a special homecoming that would be for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent.

[REWINDHow Iguodala helped Looney get career on track]

"We have a lot of summer priorities," Golden State general manager Bob Myers told The Athletic. "I don’t know if you can have seven or eight priorities.

"But he’s a priority.”

Foundational piece.

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D'Angelo Russell's potential on display in Warriors' preseason finale

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USATSI

D'Angelo Russell's potential on display in Warriors' preseason finale

SAN FRANCISCO – The wait for D’Angelo Russell to start raising his game is over. He’s coming.

If he brings it in the regular season as he did in the preseason finale Friday night, and continues to build on it, the Warriors will sing his praises and jersey sales will spike during the holidays.

“He’s just such a skilled player that no matter what happens, he’s just going to find his way to 20-plus points,” coach Steve Kerr said after a 124-103 win over a Lakers B-squad team at Chase Center. “He’s a tremendous passer, so putting him into high screens and letting him pick people apart and he’s going to find a flow.

“One thing I really like about him is that he doesn’t get discouraged. He just plays. After the slow start, he really picked it up. He was fantastic.”

Russell shot well, scoring 29 points in 28 minutes on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, including 6-of-11 from deep, and 5-of-6 from the line. He also passed nicely, recording three assists and at least as many secondary assists. He could’ve had more dimes if not for the Lakers reaching to foul shooters found open by Russell.

The real revelation, however, was on the other end of the court. Unlike more than a few moments in the previous four games, Russell was more consistent with his defensive energy and purpose. During one 19-second span early in the fourth quarter, he swiped a Zach Norvell pass and raced in for a layup and also picked up a loose ball off a Draymond Green deflection and pulled up for a triple that cranked up the noise in the building.

Russell's ability to turn defense into offense is one of his more valuable traits, and something that may be an essential component of the Warriors’ attack.

“I just made shots,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of things on the defensive end that I want to get better at, just figuring out the coverages that we’re playing and getting accustomed to those things. It’s easy to make shots in this league. It’s more about doing other things.”

What’s apparent is Russell’s growing comfort on the court. He’s in a new city, with new teammates, many of them young. There were in the first few games far too much confusion on defense and hesitation on offense. All of that is starting to fade.

And much of that stems from the growing partnership between Russell and fellow guard Stephen Curry.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know each other but see the potential of what we can be when we are out there on the floor,” Curry said. “When we’re on the floor together, there is a lot of trust in terms of making the right play, taking advantage of each possession.”

Even with such an encouraging performance, Russell still sees the holes. The areas that need to improve before he can approach All-Star status for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, to be honest,” he said. “We’re still figuring each other out. In preseason you make it what it is, for a lot of teams. A lot of teams are set and they know what they’re going to do.

“For us, we need that time to build in the good things and work on the things we didn’t do so well.”

For the Warriors to be a factor in the Western Conference, the Curry-Russell backcourt has to be among the best in the league. Offensively, that’s a given. Defensively, that’s a mystery.

But it has to at least be respectable.

“I’m optimistic that we will get off to a hot start,” Curry said. “If we do run into some road bumps throughout the season, we will build a level of communication that we can adjust as we go.”

[RELATED: Russell eyes superteam with Booker, KAT]

On this night, D-Lo showed that his offense will be there. He also, at times, showed he is capable of being the defender he’ll need to be for the Warriors to get anywhere near 50 wins.

Is he all the way there yet, particularly on defense? No. But he’s much closer than he was two weeks ago. Close enough to glimpse where he has to be.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-103 preseason win vs. Lakers

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-103 preseason win vs. Lakers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors ended their preseason slate with a bang, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 124-103 at Chase Center on Friday night. 

However, the victory didn't come with much star power. While the Warriors played their healthy starters, Los Angeles rested most of their veteran core, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard.  

With the win, Golden State finishes preseason play 2-3 and face a myriad of questions, particularly in the frontcourt. 

For now, let's get to the takeaways from Friday's win. 

Curry and Russell shine

After struggling for much of the preseason, D'Angelo Russell played well, finishing with 29 points, three rebounds and three assists, including six 3-pointers. 

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry poured in 32 points, including a four-point play in the fourth quarter. Occasionally this past summer, the two All-Stars trained in Golden State's old Oakland facility hoping to get the chemistry they displayed Friday evening. 

However, playing alongside Curry within Golden State's motion offense, Russell admittedly struggled through the team's first four games. He has All-Star talent and should find his rhythm during the regular season, especially with the spacing Curry provides.  

Rest of the Starters in dress rehearsal 

Playing as close to a regular-season rotation as possible, the Warriors starting lineup quickly found themselves down double digits. Through the first six minutes, the depleted Lakers built a 14-point lead. 

Marquese Chriss -- who effectively made the roster Friday -- air-balled his first attempt of the night, later committing an offensive foul. For good measure, Draymond Green earned a technical foul midway through the third quarter. 

With the season just under a week away, Golden State is a world away from last year's star-studded roster. Worse, injuries to Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein might linger into opening night. If Monday's performance against an undermanned Lakers team is any indication, the Warriors could be in trouble. 

Youngsters provide a boost

While Curry and Russell combined for 61 points, the Warriors' young core showed signs of life as well. With four minutes left in the first quarter, a lineup featuring Jacob Evans, Jordan Poole, Curry and Omari Spellman helped Golden State cut the Lakers' lead to one heading into the second quarter.

[RELATED: Robinson to start on opening night]

Poole -- who struggled his last two games in Los Angeles -- scored eight points, including two 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Eric Paschall added 11 points and seven rebounds. 

With a new roster, Golden State's young core will be counted on more than past years, meaning performances like Friday will have to be a regular occurrence.