Warriors should be worried about Kevon Looney even if Steve Kerr isn't


Warriors should be worried about Kevon Looney even if Steve Kerr isn't

Their 3-point defense was mostly solid, their 3-point shooting superb. Their bench brought an admirable level of scrap. After this latest loss, their fifth in a row, the Warriors actually could say there were signs of progress.

If only they could say the same of Kevon Looney.

Coach Steve Kerr had 12 “healthy” players ready to face the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night in Portland, and 11 of them took the floor. Minutes were distributed to everyone but Loon, who received the NBA’s five letters of dread: DNP-CD. Did Not Play. Coach’s Decision.

If the Warriors and their fans weren’t worried about 23-year-old forward/center before – and surgery on each hip is enough for all to give pause – it’s officially time to sound that alarm.

Diagnosed with neuropathy, a nerve condition that can be treated but not necessarily cured, Looney experienced symptoms in his right hamstring and it kept him out of training camp. Preseason games passed without him. He returned to play 10 minutes on opening night, and then missed the next 20 games.

Since returning on Dec. 2 in Atlanta, Looney has played seven games and not particularly well. In 91 minutes, he has 19 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

At no time has he appeared able to do the things that over the past two seasons endeared him to teammates and coaches. The agility to switch out and defend gifted guards. The ability to rebound in traffic. The instincts and intellect to know where he is supposed to be, and when he should be there, on both ends.

Though he was not listed on the team’s pregame injury report in Portland, Looney clearly is not physically able to be that guy. He’s hoping to play through it, and the challenge is immense.

Asked about Loon’s disuse, Kerr told reporters at Moda Center that it's tough to play 12 guys and then touched upon the essence of the matter.

“Looney is struggling to get his game back right now,” Kerr said. “I’ve only been able to get him spot minutes here and there, so I talked to him (Wednesday). I thought I would get him out there for some minutes. But the way the game turned out, I stayed with the other guys.”

To be fair, the other reserve big men, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman, were effective. With 10 points and 10 rebounds in 17 minutes, Chriss posted his third double-double in four games. Spellman had five points and six rebounds in 11 minutes.

But whether Looney is able to contribute at this time definitely is an issue. He can’t.

“Looney is one of our foundational players,” Kerr said. “He’s had a real tough go because of the condition that he dealt with. Missed training camp, and he’s trying to find his way now but has not found a rhythm. Still doesn’t have the conditioning. We’ve kind of tried to help him play back into condition here the last couple weeks. But it’s not really fair for to him or the team until he’s really in a better place physically.

“I’m not worried about him. This year is more about developing the players that you don’t know about, and it’s about getting the mainstays healthy instead of ruining our mainstays.”

Though Kerr insisted he’s not concerned – keep in mind, his script demands optimism – the key word is “conditioning.” Loon is not at the level of conditioning to contribute. Given the often debilitating effects of neuropathy, there can be no certainty.

The Warriors knew when they drafted him out of UCLA in 2015 that they were taking a risk. Looney underwent the surgery on his right hip two months after the draft. He came back and played five games as a rookie. Eight months later, he underwent surgery on his left hip.

The team’s front office and coaching staff have accepted that Looney might never routinely play 30 minutes per game. In 254 career games, including postseason, he has reached that total twice. He never has exceeded 30 minutes. His high for this season: 18 last Friday at Utah.

The plan for Looney in the coming days, according to Kerr, is to put him through more scrimmages and high-velocity practices.

"I know what he can do,” Kerr said. “I know this guy who has been our best center for the last couple years, and our most consistent performer. The guy who we have trusted in the Finals, at the biggest moments. We know what he can do. And it’s not crucial for him to be out there right now. It’s more about him getting his conditioning back, his health back. And once he does, he’ll be in our rotation.”

[RELATED: Draymond rips Blazers coach]

That’s the hope. That this young man, whose body has endured such trauma, can overcome neuropathy and any other issues that might arise and again be the reliable presence he was for most of the past two seasons.

It’s not irrational to wonder if he ever will.

Steph Curry among Warriors at Juan Toscano-Anderson's Oakland protest

Steph Curry among Warriors at Juan Toscano-Anderson's Oakland protest

How did Warriors superstar Steph Curry spend his Wednesday afternoon?

He took part in a peaceful protest against police brutality and systemic racism at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Curry and his wife, Ayesha, kneeled during the protest.

Juan Toscano-Anderson, an Oakland native and Warriors forward, organized the event.

"No matter the color of your skin, where you're from, how much money you got -- it doesn't matter," Toscano-Anderson said to those who gathered. "We're all human beings. We're all here for the same purpose.

"Right now, it's about black people. But for humanity, there's people all over the world being oppressed. We're just trying to take a step in the right direction."

[RELATED: Brees still believes kneeling is 'disrespecting the flag']

Additional members of the Warriors arrived after the walk began.

Protests around the country continue in response to George Floyd's tragic death last week while in police custody in Minneapolis.

What if Warriors had traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

What if Warriors had traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

Editor's note: Twice a week, NBC Sports Bay Area will look back on biggest "What If?" moments in Bay Area sports history in our "Hindsight 2020" series. The first installment: What if the Warriors had actually traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

Klay Thompson permanently has etched himself into Warriors lore over the last decade, using his superior shooting ability to help win, and even save, the Warriors dynasty. Thompson, along with Steph Curry, has given the Warriors a backcourt never before seen in basketball.

But back in the summer of 2014, the Warriors' eyes were on their first title in 40 years, and Thompson's place in the said mission was murky. His standing in the franchise was uncertain when Golden State dangled his services to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Kevin Love

For Golden State -- who ended up winning three titles in five seasons with Thompson -- Love provided star power that would have validated Warriors' rise. For the pre-dynasty Warriors, Love provided something Thompson has never been: A double-double threat not seen in the Bay Area since Chris Webber. 

Despite never making the postseason to that point, Love would bring an established name to a new ownership group led by Joe Lacob looking to make a statement to the rest of the league. However, the deal got nixed when team consultant Jerry West reportedly threatened to quit if Golden State went through the plan. 

But what if Thompson's talents were traded for Love? What if Golden State gave up on the Splash Brothers too early?

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

For context, the timing of the trade is noteworthy. While the San Antonio Spurs won the title with a modern offense in 2014, the league still put a premium on traditional big men who could roam the paint. In the same offseason, the Washington Wizards signed big man Marcin Gortat to a five-year, $60 million dollar deal.

But more importantly, the thought of adding Love -- a three-time All-Star at that point -- allowed Lacob to get the star power that'd spurned Golden State for years. Love was the prize, and the Warriors were eager to acquire him. 

But for Golden State, it would have made the team destined for dynastic glory merely a solid regular-season team. Spacing was a catalyst for the Warriors' success, and Love was most effective in the paint during his time in Minnesota.

Love's presence would have made Draymond Green expendable. At the time of the trade discussions, Green hadn't broken out as a bonafide starter. That wouldn't happen until the start of the 2014-15 season, only after David Lee was sidelined with a hip injury.

With Thompson off the roster, Curry would not have the necessary spacing or the heat-check partner Thompson provides. Love's defensive deficiencies would drive assistant coach Ron Adams insane. 

[RELATED: Six reasons why Warriors will play in 2021 Finals]

In Minnesota, Thompson would have been the franchise pillar leading a rebuild, a distinction he's never had the opportunity to live up to. But alongside Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad, he'd have little chance of success in his first season.

In 2015, he'd likely be joined by draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns. But as we learned in the Bay Area, Thompson is best served as the second or third-best player on a championship roster. The presence of Curry and Kevin Durant allowed Thompson to flourish on his own terms. On Golden State's stacked roster, Thompson's scoring binges and defense set the Warriors apart from the rest of the league. In Minnesota, his contributions alone wouldn't yield a title.

Trade notwithstanding, both players ended up on the right side of history. Love ultimately was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning a title with LeBron James in 2016, beating the Warriors along the way.

Meanwhile, Thompson won three titles in the Bay Area and has become an organizational pillar. The 2014 trade proposal looks preposterous in hindsight. 

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]