Warriors

Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- Twenty minutes after Monday night's 113-104 win over the Timberwolves, Warriors forward Kevon Looney still is in full uniform, working up a sweat.

Away from the thousands of fans at Chase Center, he's been summoned to the team's adjoining practice facility in an effort to regain his conditioning.

Over the past few weeks, the visual has been a common occurrence for the battered role player. For much of the season, Looney has been limited with a neuropathic condition, forcing him to be absent for an extended period of time.

Last week, Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced he'd scale back Looney's workload to help the big man come back to form. In a season of transition, the Warriors "foundational piece" has been trying to become the contributor he once was.

"It's been kind of frustrating," Looney told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Being hurt."

Seven months ago, Looney was one of the Warriors best defenders, helping them reach their fifth consecutive NBA Finals, leading Kerr to call him a "foundational piece." As a result, Looney earned a three-year, $14 million contract with the team. However, he began to feel discomfort in his hamstring over the summer as a result of that neuropathic condition.

The pain persisted through training camp, limiting him to just nine of Golden State's first 31 games.  

 

Neuropathy is a disorder caused by nerve damage outside of the brain and spinal cord, and can cause weakness in a person's hands and feet. Looney first encountered the condition in his second NBA season, often feeling numbness in his hands, wrists and feet. Nonetheless, he was able to play through the pain, becoming a key contributor for two Warriors championship runs, a practice that changed once the condition reached his hamstring.

"You just kind of deal with it," Looney said. "Manage it. Do what you can do, but when it hit my hamstring, it was something I couldn't control and something I couldn't play through."

Looney's injury is just the latest to nag the 23-year-old through the onset of his career. Shortly after he was drafted, he underwent hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip. One year later, he had another surgery on his left hip, limiting him to just 57 of a possible 164 regular-season outings through his first two years.

While he's been relatively healthy over his last three seasons, Looney's latest injury brings back the old questions of his long-term health, much to his chagrin.

"It does bother me because I know I'll play through anything," Looney said. "But in the NBA, they want you to take care of your body, so they try to protect you from yourself. I just want to shake that label and get back to who I know I am."

As Looney attempts to get back into Golden State's fold, his frontcourt mates are flourishing. On Monday, Willie Cauley-Stein finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, as Looney played just nine minutes.

Nonetheless, his coach doesn't seem troubled.

“I’m not worried about him. This year is more about developing the players that you don’t know about,"  Kerr said last week. "And it’s about getting the mainstays healthy instead of running down our mainstays. The biggest thing for Looney is to get healthy, get in condition, and when he does, he will be playing plenty.”

His current reality isn't what Looney planned at the end of last season. With Kevin Durant off to Brooklyn and Klay Thompson potentially out for the season with an ACL injury, Looney planned to expand his offensive game to beyond the 3-point line. While those plans haven't come to fruition thus far, the big man hopes to find his form in the coming months.

"I just want to get my body healthy and work on my game," Looney said. "I feel like I worked a lot over the summer to expand my range, and being hurt, you're trying to find your rhythm so you go back to what you know, trying to get back to what got me here. So, this season is about getting healthy and my body right, and continue to work on my game and get back to where I was on defense and work on the stuff I've been working on all summer."

 

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Until then, Looney plans to be in full uniform, working up a full sweat, alone on a practice court.

"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer each week and keep making strides," he said. "The further I get from the injury, the better I'll feel."