Kevon Looney takes great pride in being available game after game for the Golden State Warrior.
The eighth-year center realizes his role is suddenly as large as ever for the defending champions with Draymond Green suspended and the Warriors on the ropes against upstart Sacramento in their first-round playoff series.
It’s not the first time Golden State has leaned on the dependable Looney this season.
The Warriors might have completely fractured during training camp when Green punched Jordan Poole at practice had it not been for Looney’s voice of reason and steadying hand. General manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr largely credit Looney for keeping the peace after an incident that threatened to put the entire season in jeopardy for a team determined to go after another title.
Now the Warriors not only need Looney’s leadership but also his reliable rebounding.
The 6-foot-9 Looney will be Golden State’s main presence in the paint heading into Game 3 against the Kings on Thursday night with the Warriors down 2-0 in the postseason for the first time during the Stephen Curry era.
“Everybody’s locked in, our level of focus has raised, our back’s against the wall so we have to go out there and play with a level of focus we haven’t played with all year,” Looney said after practice Wednesday. “I think we’re ready and I think we’re excited.”
Green briefly addressed the team before the Warriors got back to work at Chase Center, where they know their raucous fans will be ready to help them get right back in this best-of-seven series with their Northern California neighbor.
Green was disciplined by the NBA on Tuesday for stepping on the chest of center Domantas Sabonis in the fourth quarter of Golden State’s 114-106 Game 2 loss a night earlier that led to Green being ejected from the game.
In Green’s absence, Looney will look for help from Jonathan Kuminga, JaMychal Green and Anthony Lamb on the low block.
“The lack of size we’ll obviously have to address that,” Kerr said. “There’s a lot of different options in that regard when you talk about Kuminga and Lamb and JMych. It’s more than likely going to be a game where we play a lot of people and we just have to put our best foot forward. I believe in our guys. I have no doubt we can go out there and get this done.”
Kerr stressed that rebounding will be paramount for his team to compete without the do-everything Green.
Looney led the NBA with 271 offensive rebounds this season that accounted for an NBA-best 349 points scored by the Warriors after he corralled the ball off the offensive glass — while the Kings scored the second most at 320 after the 246 offensive boards by Sabonis that ranked fourth in the league.
“Iron Man Loon” as they call him — he played all 82 games for a second straight season — figures not many “outside the locker room know all I do.”
“I always had a pulse of what’s going on in the locker room,” Looney said. “I’m one of the guys that everybody can talk to. I’m one of the guys always checking in with different guys and talking so I kind of just upped that and made sure that guys were feeling comfortable and being that voice if guys don’t feel comfortable talking out loud being able to talk for them or just knowing when to check in, doing different things like that.”
Looney has been on the floor for 217 consecutive contests overall including the postseason. His 193 regular-season games in a row is the second-longest active streak behind Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges at 392.
“I think coach called him the moral compass of the team earlier this year which is completely accurate in the sense of he’s a true veteran but closer in age to some of the younger guys and has kind of seen all the different types of roles on our team,” Curry said.
Looney has earned Kerr’s trust and admiration for being team-first at all times — whether he’s starting, coming off the bench in more limited minutes or piling up rebounds as he did during a stretch of six straight games grabbing 13 or more earlier this year.
The Warriors are counting on another stretch of stellar rebounding by Looney, and Curry is confident his teammate will deliver.
“He just brings great energy pretty much every day, even game days making sure everybody’s locked in pregame before we take the court ... making sure everybody’s excited to go play,” Curry said. “And he does it in a very unique way, so all of it matters, contributions on the court, off the court and he’s as important to the fabric of our team culture as anybody.”
This is not the first challenge the Warriors have faced without the fiery Green during their great postseason runs.
“We’ve been in some difficult situations before,” Kerr said. “I guess maybe not down 2-0 but we’ve been down 3-1, which sounds worse. We’ve seen it all.”
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