Warriors

Kevon Looney's injury will force Warriors to play guys out of position

Kevon Looney's injury will force Warriors to play guys out of position

OKLAHOMA CITY -- For much of the first month of the season, the Warriors have been trying to find combat various frontcourt injuries. 

In a three-day span, the team announced injuries to Willie Cauley-Stein (foot), rookie Alen Smailagic (ankle) and Kevon Looney (hamstring), a crippling blow to Golden State's depth. 

In the latest twist, after playing 10 minutes in a season-opening loss to the Clippers, Looney aggravated his hamstring, prompting neurological testing. 

For the last five years, the Warriors have used star power and luck to stay atop the league. Now, as they continue to find frontcourt consistency, they will have to be without one of their defensive staples.

"I'm feeling really, really bad for him," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "He's such a great human being, player."

While Looney has been dealing with the nerve issue for a "few years," he began to feel discomfort in his hamstring during summer workouts but assumed it was a strain, which required rest. The same approach was taken following Looney's preseason injury. However, when an MRI came back clean, further testing was required. 

Looney's absence comes at a particularly rough time for Golden State. With three big men out, Marquese Chriss -- a training camp invite who earned the team's last spot -- is the only true big man on the roster. The conundrum will force Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman -- traditional power forwards -- to play out of position.  

Adding to the problem, Golden State has one of the smallest frontcourts in the league. Through the first 24 minutes of the preseason, the Warriors were outrebounded 34-26, as Anthony Davis -- the Lakers' prized summer acquisition -- bullied Golden State's frontline, scoring 22 points and adding 10 rebounds in 18 minutes. Nineteen days later, the Clippers outscored Golden State 58-40 in the paint. 

As Kerr spoke Saturday evening, Draymond Green -- who injured his elbow Thursday night --  had ice bags across his body, highlighting Golden State's injury troubles. Despite the dire straits, Kerr wouldn't commit to using Green at center full-time Sunday against the Thunder.

"No matter how you slice it, from a size standpoint, it's a lot to handle," Kerr said. "Typically we've played Draymond at the five over the years for 10 minutes a game. We've never really asked him to do it for huge minutes. We've done it to play in spurts and generate pace but asking to Draymond to guard Steven Adams for 30 minutes wouldn't make much sense. We've got to mix and match and find different combinations and different things to do." 

As Looney gets clarity on the hamstring, Golden State is still searching for a consistent center. Cauley-Stein, who injured his foot last month, has participated in non-contact workouts with the team in recent weeks, while Golden State hopes to get Smailagic into the fold soon. 

In recent seasons, Looney has been indispensable defensively. In last year's postseason, with Kevin Durant out due to a calf injury, Looney was one of Golden State's best defenders, helping the team reach its fifth straight NBA Finals. The performance was enough for Golden State to sign the forward to a three-year, $14 million contract over the summer, making sure to keep the defensive anchor in the Bay.

[RELATED: Draymond needs Steph's perspective this season]

"One of my favorite guys that I've ever coached because he's not just low maintenance, he's zero maintenance," Kerr said. "He just comes in and does his work and you just want a guy like that to flourish and he should be entering the prime of his career and hopefully, he's got many years ahead of him." 

Now, as Golden State gets clarity on Looney's latest injury, the team will continue to search for viable frontcourt options.

Warriors' Steve Kerr explains what Ky Bowman can work on in Santa Cruz

Warriors' Steve Kerr explains what Ky Bowman can work on in Santa Cruz

In case you missed the news from Thursday ...

...  Ky Bowman is not in Utah to face the Jazz on Friday night because he will be making his G League debut in Santa Cruz.

The two-way guard only has 13 days left with Golden State, so the team needs to be strategic about maximizing his time in the NBA.

So what does coach Steve Kerr want to see from Bowman when he's playing for the Sea Dubs?

"What Ky can continue to work on is just his point guard mentality," Kerr told reporters after shootaround Friday. "In college he really was a scoring one. In the NBA, I think his position right now is backup point guard -- which he did a great job of with us, especially picking up the ball full court (and) being a pest defensively -- that's critical as a backup point.

"But offensively, he's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass. And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

When D'Angelo Russell missed three games in early November, Bowman averaged 14.3 points and 5.3 assists, while shooting 53 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from deep.

When Russell missed nine games from Nov. 17 to Dec. 2, Bowman averaged 12.6 points and 4.1 assists, while shooting 45.4 percent overall and over 42 percent from 3-point range.

But when Bowman has been the Warriors' backup point guard, his production understandably has dipped with decreased playing time in a different role.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

The Boston College product would be able to consistently put up huge scoring numbers in the G League. Nobody would question that.

But Kerr doesn't care if Bowman drops 50 points against the Sioux Falls Skyforce because he would prefer to see Bowman rack up 14 assists and six steals, and make sure the offense runs smoothly.

And in case you're curious:

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Warriors' Alec Burks expresses desire to remain with team long-term

Warriors' Alec Burks expresses desire to remain with team long-term

SALT LAKE CITY --  Warriors guard Alec Burks has known stability for much of his NBA career.

That all changed a little more than a year ago, when -- after eight seasons with the Jazz -- he spent much of last season floating between three teams in six months. Even in free agency, when players exert the most control over their destination, he technically was an employee of two teams in the span of a week.

However, while standing on the floor where he's spent most of his NBA career, he expressed interest in being with his current team long term.

"Yeah, I like it here," Burks said following shoot-around Friday morning at Vivant Smart Home Arena. "Great culture, great players, great coaching staff. I would love to."

Burks' current reality didn't seem plausible during the onset of his career. During his first five seasons, he averaged 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, and that performance led to a four-year, $42 million contract in 2014. Then, his base began to crumble, as a series of stress fractures limited the wing to just 100 games over a two-year period, putting the stability of his career in peril.

Last season, Burks was traded three times, finishing the season averaging just 1.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 13 games with the Sacramento Kings. In July, Burks agreed to a deal with the Thunder, believing he'd play with Paul George and Russell Westbrook. When both were traded, he was let out of his contract, ultimately signing a one-year deal with the Warriors for basic factors.

"I just knew it was championship-oriented because they were winning so much," he said. "I could see how Steve [Kerr] coached them from afar and the way they worked."

While he's shooting just 42 percent for the season, Burks has shown an ability to score in spurts. Last month against the Grizzlies, he scored 17 of his team-high 29 points in the first half, adding eight rebounds in 36 minutes, helping the Warriors to their second win of the season.

With the Warriors in transition, Burks says he wants to be a part of their climb back to championship form.

"Now I'm a part of it, I just see how everything is laid back," he said. "They work hard, and they go about their business and have fun doing it."

While Burks sees a future in the Bay, his comfort level in Salt Lake is apparent. Just before Golden State's last matchup with Utah more than two weeks ago, Burks spent an extra 15 minutes on the floor conversing with old teammates and arena staff following his pregame workout, an ode to the stability he once had.

"I built real relationships with everybody in the arena. Not just the players but people that worked for the team. People that work in the arena," he said. "They showed me love, so I show them love back."

[RELATED: Ask Kerith: Why Warriors belong to the entire Bay Area]
 
Burks might have an opportunity to build that in the Bay for years to come, but as he knows all too well, that opportunity won't be promised.

"You never know in this league," he said. "You never know."