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Report: Kevon Looney could return during NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors v Utah Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 19: Kevon Looney #5 of the Golden State Warriors controls the ball in a NBA game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 19, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

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OAKLAND — Watching DeMarcus Cousins struggle to defend in space as he got attacked off pick-and-rolls in Game 3 (then take bad angles to recover, or on rotations) made it obvious how much the Warriors missed Kevon Looney in these Finals.

However, Looney is out for the playoffs with a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture of the collar bone.

Or is he?

Via Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney could potentially return during the NBA Finals, league sources told ESPN. More testing will determine Looney’s next steps and whether he does, in fact, make a return to the league’s championship round.

Kerr said two days ago, “it’s going to keep him out for the rest of the series, which is obviously a big blow for us and for him.” However, as the Warriors feel a new sense of urgency in this series — call it mild desperation, if you prefer, being down 2-1 — the calculations change. That’s why Klay Thompson will play in Game 4 on Friday and Kevin Durant could, depending on his workout at the Warriors’ facility Thursday afternoon.

Looney, even in limited minutes, would be a big boost for the Warriors’ front line.

“He’s a really good defensive player,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I mean, first of all, he’s just a good player, but he’s a problem defensively because he can switch and guard just about anybody out there. And that’s a big-time luxury. That takes you out of -- that keeps people in front. That takes you out of having to play weak side on the roller, right, and tagging and rotating and X’ing out and all those things that we -- terminology we have to cover screen and roll defense. He’s a good rebounder, and he’s capable on offense to face up and knock one down or keep balls alive and get an offensive rebound.”

Looney injured his collar bone after a first-quarter collision with Kawhi Leonard in Game 2.

Looney’s value as a defender and role player for the Warriors has become more evident during the postseason, with Steve Kerr saying Looney was a big part of the Warriors’ future.

If they can keep him, Looney is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Two seasons ago the Warriors declined an option year on his rookie contract, then signed him as a free agent at the minimum. After this season Looney will make more than that, the Warriors have said bringing him back will be a priority, but they have a lot of other priorities this summer as well (Thompson and Durant top the list).