Warriors

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

Warriors

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.

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"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.