Looney's ‘special' heroics in Warriors-Kings worthy of award


SACRAMENTO – There will come a time, maybe soon, when the Warriors ought to consider a new award, one presented to the player who best represents the spirit of teamwork and selflessness.

For whom should it be named? Please. Kevon Looney.

Looney’s eight-year NBA career reads like an epic novel, rich with joy and misery and glory and agony. It’s very much a work in progress, but he is using this Warriors-Kings first-round playoff series to burnish his credentials as the Herculean protagonist.

While his teammates in Golden State’s classic lineup – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins – were painting pretty scoring statistics Wednesday night in a 123-116 victory in Game 5, each with at least 20 points, Looney was rolling up his sleeves and burying himself in the manual labor required to get them there.

“We’re going to ride our guys,” coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s our best lineup, our best two-way lineup. Loon just gets every rebound. So, when we give up spacing, we gain in offensive rebounding and defense.

“He just does all the stuff that coaches love. He sets screens and rebounds. He gets a rebound and he’s constantly looking to throw the ball back out to the open 3-point shooter. He never turns the ball over.”

Looney played 35 minutes, one short of his career high, and spent the evening passing and screening and gobbling rebounds like popcorn out of hand. He snagged 22. His teammates, all eight of them that appeared, combined for 21.

This after Looney pulled down 34 rebounds during wins in Game 3 (20 rebounds) and Game 4 (14). He joins Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond as the only Warriors with multiple games of at least 20 rebounds in one playoff series.

“It’s special,” Curry said. “Those two names are in the rafters and for him to join any list with those two guys on there, it speaks to just how special of a player he is and what he’s become.”

Looney through five games has a 72-58 rebounding edge on Kings center Domantas Sabonis, who in a pregame ceremony received an award for . . . leading the NBA in rebounds this season.

“For this team, my job is really to rebound,” Looney said. “Sometimes, we go out there pretty small, especially when Draymond is not starting. I need to set a tone with physicality and rebounds. That’s really been the key to the games. Whenever we’re able to keep the rebounds pretty even and keep the possession battle even, we’ve got a great shot of winning.

“For this series, I really want to try to set the tone and try to get every rebound, be greedy in that way. It helps our team.”

That’s the Looney attitude. Do whatever is needed to help the Warriors achieve their goals, all while knowing the accolades will land on his more celebrated teammates.

And yet, Looney in this series has been more than a rebounder. He has more assists, 25-22, than Sabonis, who was second among NBA centers, behind Denver’s Nikola Jokic, in that category.

“He just does all the stuff that coaches love,” Kerr said of Looney. “He sets screens and rebounds. He gets a rebound and he’s constantly looking to throw the ball back out to the open 3-point shooter. He never turns the ball over. He’s excellent defensively. He doesn’t look the part, but he can stay in front of guards, plays with great verticality and length.

“He’s a championship player. But this is who has been for three years now.”

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Looney’s medical folder is one of the thickest in league history, filled with career-threatening issues. Surgery on his right hip the summer before his rookie season, surgery on the left the following spring. He has been managing neuropathy since 2019, and underwent core muscle surgery in May 2020.

Yet, he’s out there when others might have given up. Surrender is not part of his makeup. He’s got a screen to set, teammates to help, credit to deflect and, of course, rebounds to grab.

It’s award-winning stuff, even if there is not yet an award to be given.

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