Warriors

Kevon Looney would 'love to stay' with Warriors, hopes it works out

Kevon Looney would 'love to stay' with Warriors, hopes it works out

LOS ANGELES -- Aware that Steve Kerr one day earlier urged the Warriors to offer him a long-term contract, Kevon Looney paused and broke into a broad grin at the mention of it Saturday.

“Yeah, I heard what he said,” Looney said. “It’s good to have that kind of support from the coach. I hope it works out.”

Kerr made it clear Friday that he was glad Looney did not leave upon becoming a free agent last summer, adding he believes the 23-year-old center/forward had done enough to earn a long-term deal -- and that he hopes it’s with the Warriors.

So does Looney, who has become a staple of the team’s playing rotation.

“I’d love to stay here,” he said. “I like being on this team. I want to be there when Chase Center opens later this year.”

Looney is earning $1.57 million this season. The valuable backup becomes an unrestricted free agent in July, the second consecutive summer he will hit the market.

[RELATED: Why Iguodala hopes Looney leaves]

This time, however, the Warriors have Bird rights on Looney, giving them considerable financial flexibility to pursue a new contract.

“For two years now, he has been a rock for us,” Kerr said Saturday morning. “So when I mentioned that [Friday], yeah, I really hope that’s here. I want him to be here for a long time. I think everybody in this locker room wants Loon to be rewarded for his effort.”

Looney set career highs in games played (80), minutes (18.5 per game), points (6.3 points per game) and rebounds (5.2 per game), among other categories, during the 2018-19 regular season. He has averaged 11.7 points in the Warriors' three playoff games thus far.

Raptors' Masai Ujiri makes two bold proclamations before NBA Finals

masaiusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Raptors' Masai Ujiri makes two bold proclamations before NBA Finals

Masai Ujiri is a bold man.

The Toronto Raptors president built a sizable chunk of his Eastern Conference champion roster through trades, acquiring pivotal pieces Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in trades over the years. Thanks in big part to those (and other) big moves, his Raptors will square off the Warriors in the NBA Finals beginning Thursday in Toronto.

With the Scotiabank Arena crowd cheering him on after Toronto's Eastern Conference finals-deciding win Saturday night, Ujiri made a couple of audacious proclamations in a postgame interview with TNT's Ernie Johnson. 

"We came all this way to compete, and we want to win in Toronto -- and we will win in Toronto," Ujiri said to roars from Raptors fans when Johnson asked for his thoughts on a matchup with the Warriors. 

How does he look back on the Kawhi Leonard trade? 

"He's been unbelievable," Ujiri said to loud approval from the home crowd. "He's the best player in the league, and we're happy he's in Toronto." 

It's hard to blame Ujiri for being confident, nor should it be too much of a surprise. 

[RELATED: How Warriors, Raptors stack up ahead of NBA Finals matchup]

For one, the Raptors rattled off four straight wins against likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the NBA's top seed in the Bucks. For another, Leonard is operating at the peak of his powers, averaging 31.2 points per game in the postseason. On top of that, Toronto had just won the biggest game in franchise history, as the Raptors clinched their first-ever Finals appearance in 24 years as an NBA franchise.  Plus, Ujiri once told a Toronto crowd "f--- Brooklyn" ahead of a first-round series with the Nets in 2014 and said a year later that "he ain't taking that back." 

The Warriors are pursuing their fourth NBA title in five years, and don't need the bulletin-board material that the sixth-seeded Nets needed to upset the third-seeded Raptors back in 2014. But five days before the Finals begin, it's nice to already see a strong dose of personality. 

Warriors vs. Raptors preview: Who has edge in 2019 NBA Finals matchup?

finalswide.jpg
NBC Sports Bay Area

Warriors vs. Raptors preview: Who has edge in 2019 NBA Finals matchup?

With the Toronto Raptors beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night, the Warriors' NBA Finals matchup is confirmed. 

The best-of-seven series will pair the back-to-back defending NBA champions against Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Drake (possibly) and a Raptors organization fresh off clinching the first Finals appearance in its 24-year history. 

For the first time during their current five-year run, the Warriors will not have home-court advantage, and they could be without injured starters DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant at the onset of the series. 

For now, here are the biggest things to watch heading into the series, which starts Thursday night in Toronto.

Projected starting lineups 

Warriors
F Andre Iguodala
F Draymond Green
C Andrew Bogut
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Raptors 
F Pascal Siakam
F Kawhi Leonard
C Marc Gasol
G Kyle Lowry
G Danny Green

The Warriors will be without Durant for at least the start of the series with a calf injury. Cousins, who began practicing with the team this week, could make his return from a torn quad in Game 1 if he continues to progress in his rehab.

Still, the Warriors have the healthy Splash Brother duo of Curry and Thompson, who combined to score nearly 57 points per game in the Western Conference finals.

Meanwhile, Leonard has been productive all postseason for Toronto, averaging 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 18 games. Following a breakout season, Siakam was a dependable second scorer in the conference finals. Lowry is a reliable regular-season contributor but has routinely struggled in the playoffs, and a thumb injury could hamper his production. 

Edge: Draw (until Durant comes back)

Bench

Like the Warriors, the Raptors have struggled to get contributions from their second unit this season, finishing the regular season 24th in bench scoring.

The postseason hasn't been much better for Toronto, which averaged just 25.1 bench points per game through the first three playoff rounds. Former Warrior Patrick McCaw signed with the Raptors midseason after declining an offer from the Warriors and having a brief stint in Cleveland. However, he's averaging just 2.1 points per game across the regular season and playoffs. 

With Durant out, the Warriors have gotten contributions from their bench. Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Kevon Looney have stepped up in particular, and all three will be counted on in the Finals. 

Edge: Warriors

[RELATED: Iguodala alludes to retirement when asked about workload]

Coaching

Although he wasn't nominated, Toronto's Nick Nurse is putting together a Coach of the Year-worthy campaign. He helped guide the Raptors to 58 wins in his first season, despite Leonard missing 22 games.

Under Nurse's tutelage, the Raptors finished with the league's fifth-best offense, and he oversaw a defense that largely shut down Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals. 

However, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has presided over the best six-year run in NBA history, and is on pace to win his fourth championship in five years. 

Edge: Warriors