Steve Kerr: Kevon Looney “gave us fantastic minutes” in win over Bucks

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MILWAUKEE — Traces of Kevon Looney’s childhood played out in front of him.


As soon as the Warriors landed here on Thursday night, the Warriors’ third-year forward caught up with family and hometown friends. Nearly 24 hours later, those same people saw Looney step on the court and show what has made him so valuable. In the Warriors’ 108-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, Looney provided nine points on 3-of-3 shooting while adding eight rebounds, three assists and a block in a career-high 23 minutes off the bench.

“As a kid, I dreamed about this,” Looney said. “It was pretty sweet.”

Not all of Looney’s dreams have gone true. He faced his first two NBA seasons nursing injuries to his hips. He faced his third NBA season with questions about his future after the Warriors declined to exercise his option because his $2.2 million salary would have increased the team’s luxury tax bill. He faced uncertainty with his playing time this season amid Kerr’s preference to adjust his lineups both to chase matchups and to maximize his team’s depth.

Yet, there was Looney playing significant minutes before his hometown friends and family, while Warriors rookie forward Jordan Bell and veteran center JaVale McGee received healthy scratches.


“I wanted to get him in the game since he’s from here. But it was much more that he was a fit with all the switching we’re going to do,” Kerr said. “You have to protect the rim at the same time. I thought Looney gave us fantastic minutes.”

Those minutes became significant in ensuring the Warriors’ 11th consecutive victory. After allowing Milwaukee (22-19) to shoot 11-of-22 from 3-point range through three quarters, the Warriors held the Bucks to 12 fourth-quarter points. Looney represented the Warriors’ fourth-quarter unit that forced Milwaukee to miss its first seven shots to open the final period. Looney also replaced Warriors forward Draymond Green at the 6:53 mark, before Green rejoined Looney when he came back in to replace Patrick McCaw at the 3:11 mark.

“For them to go small and Steve still takes me out the game and puts him in the game, that shows the trust he has in him,” Green said. “He’s very familiar with his personnel and is a very smart player. He can guard one through five. That’s what has gotten him on the floor this year. He can switch and he can guard a guard just like he can guard a big. He can rebound the ball and he can block shots. That was important. Steve showed faith in him. He responded to it and played well for us.”

Looney said he had a feeling Kerr would play him partly because of his return to his hometown. Then again, Looney has a feeling he will always play. He does not know for sure. Though Looney has played at least 15 minutes in three of the past five games, he also received two healthy scratches this month. Yet, Looney said he prepares as if he will see the floor instead of sitting on the bench.

Before every game, Looney watches film with Warriors player development coach Chris DeMarco to go over every single player’s scouting report on the opposing team. Afterwards, Looney said he tries to remember every player’s habits because of a specific reason.

“I know that’s what’s going to get me on the court – playing defense, making plays and being solid,” Looney said. “I got to get to know every person’s strong hand and people’s tendencies. That’s something I take pride in and try to go out there and execute.”

And it is something that has made the Warriors feel proud of him.

“He’s consistent with his work habits and he’s always perfecting his craft. That’s something where we all just have a mutual respect for,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “So when he goes in there and plays well, it energizes the whole team. We’re excited for him and want him to play in front of his fans and family and to play that well. I hope he continues to build that confidence. It helps us down the line.”

As a result, Green predicted that Looney is “going to make some good money in this league” once he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. On Friday, Looney earned his keep by elevating the Warriors defense while nursing an injury to star guard Stephen Curry, who missed his second consecutive game after aggravating his sprained right ankle. After praising Looney all season for knowing opposing team’s personnel and the team’s defensive schemes, Kerr found it fitting Looney could thrive immediately.

“It particularly comes into play when Steph is out,” Kerr said. “When Steph is on the floor, everything is chaotic in a good way. When he’s out, we have to execute better at both ends. Loon is the guy I know I can count on in terms of knowing every play, executing the schemes defensively. That’s what makes him so valuable for us. He’s always ready and he’s a matchup guy for us. He does a great job.”

Odds and ends

Warriors reserve Omri Casspi missed Friday’s game against Milwaukee because of low back soreness that he said stemmed from suffering an unspecified virus. He spent Thursday night struggling to walk … The Warriors recalled guard Quinn Cook and center Damian Jones from their Santa Cruz. Though Cook was acquired as insurance with Curry out, he received a healthy scratch. Jones was recalled mostly to be with the team after being in Toronto recently for the G-League showcase…

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