Kevon Looney

Three new factors put Looney's Warriors career at crossroads

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SAN FRANCISCO – Kevon Looney and the Warriors soon will be wading into familiar waters, but he seems to understand the temperature might not be as warm as it was in the past.

The 28-year-old center has only one more year on his contract, at $8 million, with only $3 million guaranteed. With the Warriors neck deep in the luxury tax, his status is in jeopardy.

Mature soul that he is, Looney understands his predicament.

“I'm not always in control of my future here,” he said Wednesday. “I always would love to come back, be part of this team, part of this organization. That's all I kind of know.

“But it's the NBA. When you don't make the playoffs, you lose, stuff usually happens. So, I don't know what's going to happen, but I should be prepared for the next step.”

This is the third time Looney has approached summer with at least a degree of uncertainty. He was re-signed to a three-year contract (player option in Year 3) worth $14.5 million in 2019. He was re-signed to his current contract in 2022.

Coach Steve Kerr might have been Looney’s biggest advocate both times.

But circumstances have changed. There are three new factors.

One, the Warriors are seeking ways to trim the biggest payroll in the NBA. There will be casualties.

Two, Looney’s role has diminished, going from two-year starter to part-time starter this season and, eventually, shuttling in and out of the rotation. He’s now expendable.

Three, there is the presence of rookie center Trayce Jackson-Davis, who moved into the starting lineup in the final month of the regular season, which ended Tuesday with a loss to the Sacramento Kings in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Looney met general manager Mike Dunleavy and Kerr on Wednesday at Chase Center and came away with no assurances.

“Not really. It's kind of too early,” Looney said. “We got a lot of things we got to figure out first. I don't think I'm top of the list. I'm going to just keep working and keep evolving my game and keep trying to get better and be able to help our team win.”

It’s clear that Looney would like to stay with the Warriors. He has embraced the region, and his parents migrated from Milwaukee years ago and are regulars at Chase Center.

As it is, Looney has outperformed projections made in the wake of surgeries to each hip and his ongoing battle with neuropathy. His pregame routine is extensive but has been crucial in him becoming the team’s resident iron man.

As recently as last season, Looney was part of the NBA’s highest-rated starting lineup, along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green. That lineup was much less effective this season.

Which led to significant change. Looney’s streak of consecutive games ended at 289 – second longest in the NBA – on March 7 in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. He was a healthy non-participant in six of the next eight games.

Yet Looney made his pitch to remain with the franchise that drafted him in 2015.

“I think I have a lot [left]; I feel like I can get better,” he said. “After the first couple months or two I don't feel like I played a lot of minutes. I didn't try to take advantage of the opportunity that I was given. I feel like I can still develop. I feel like I can continue to get better, help guys on the team get better, and I feel like I'm still learning the game and growing.”

On Looney’s previous ventures into free agency, there always was a sense he would be re-signed. Interest was mutual, and each time he was willing to accept a “hometown discount.”

That might not be enough this time around, considering Golden State’s changing roster, its bloated payroll and Looney’s shrinking role.

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