Kevon Looney believes in Warriors’ playoff chances while embracing new bench leadership role

While his role with the Warriors has changed this season, Kevon Looney remains confident in his team’s ability to remain playoff contenders.

Golden State Warriors: What The Hell Happened To Kevon Looney?

It takes a lot of courage and pride to sacrifice personal goals for the greater good of the team. This is what Kevon Looney has done this season for the Golden State Warriors, an organization that always finds itself in the championship mix come time for the NBA Playoffs. The problem this year is that the Warriors haven’t looked like the championship contenders they are used to being, resulting in numerous lineup changes and roles across the roster constantly changing.

Looney has found himself a part of that experienced group who have seen their roles shift. A three-time champion with Golden State, Looney has worked his way into the same breath as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in terms of being the core of this organization. While Looney may not have the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame conversation like Curry, Thompson, and Green, he has most certainly been a major part of Golden State’s dynasty since their second championship in 2017. It would not come as a surprise to see his jersey hanging next to his teammates’ in the Chase Center rafters one day.

The Warriors are an older team in the NBA now. The mileage this core has racked up from their six NBA Finals appearances in an eight-year span is beginning to take a toll. Nonetheless, Golden State is still of the belief that they can contend in the playoffs as long as they have a shot. For Looney, this championship belief still exists despite the Warriors clinging to the 10-seed in the Western Conference with a 36-32 record.

“Everyone knows the experience and talent we have on our roster,” Looney outlined in an exclusive interview with ClutchPoints. “We have the best coach in the league. Steph, Dray, Klay, and Chris [Paul] are all Hall of Famers. Me and Wiggs are champions… We just have everything that’s needed to beat any other team. On any given night, we are going to have the best player on the court with the way Steph is playing late in his career.

“We feel like our ceiling is as high as any other team in the league come playoff time. We just have to get there. It’s not going to be easy, and it is far from a guarantee at this point, but we still know we are just as good as anyone else, and that’s good enough for us to keep our belief high.”

Kevon Looney supports new role with Warriors

The main problem with the Warriors is they haven’t been able to string together back-to-back victories since the end of February. The constant struggle to find consistency has resulted in Golden State’s inability to prove they are true threats in the West this season. Home-court advantage has always been a factor for this team. With just weeks remaining in the regular season, the Warriors are only 18-19 on their home floor. To make matters worse, they now lead the Houston Rockets by just a half-game ahead of Tuesday night’s battle on the road against the Miami Heat.

Unlike the top teams in the Western Conference that have maintained the same starting group all season long, head coach Steve Kerr and his staff have been challenged this year due to this team’s inability to find dependable production outside of Curry. Andrew Wiggins has found himself coming off the bench at times as a result of his scoring deficiencies this season, Paul has come off the bench the entire year, and Thompson was recently moved into a bench role right before the All-Star break.

Looney has joined the list of championship-experienced players moving to the bench for the Warriors this season. In fact, this move to the bench snapped Looney’s consecutive games played streak of 254 in the regular season, 289 including the playoffs, which was the second-longest active streak in the league behind Brooklyn Nets ironman Mikal Bridges.

The 28-year-old has always taken a lot of pride in his availability. Looney is not the type of player to miss games due to an illness or minor bumps and bruises. With this said, Looney has always put the team above his own personal goals.

Role changes are nothing new for the veteran, and he wants to do whatever it takes to put the Warriors in the best position possible heading into the postseason. If that means not playing in order to give Golden State a better advantage with rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis, Looney is willing to be the mentor the Warriors need him to be.

“It’s definitely not easy to see your role change after years of seeing championship success. This wasn’t the news I wanted to hear initially, but who am I to put my pride and my ego above the team when we got guys like Chris and Klay coming off the bench?” Looney questioned to himself. “We’ve been sacrificing as one unit because we just want to win. I know how much Steve respects me, so I honored this change. I just want to be the best version of myself for this team. When my time comes again and he needs me to go out there, I am going to be the same player everyone is used to seeing. As long as we win, that’s all that matters.”

No player in the league likes being told they are going to come off the bench, even if it sets them up for success. The need to win and do so as a focal point of the team’s starting lineup is a desire every NBA player shares. When Looney sat down and spoke with Kerr about this change that was going to be made, he was obviously frustrated at first, just as anyone would be with their line of work. What makes the Warriors such a unique team is they have numerous players who can fit different needs. Whereas Looney provides the team with a sturdy rebounding presence, other options, such as Jackson-Davis, allow the Warriors to play a little faster and get ahead of their opponents.

Chris Paul, Klay Thompson set the standard

Sacrifice is a word that has been echoed throughout the Warriors’ locker room this season. Paul and Thompson are two future Hall of Famers who have sacrificed for the greater good of the team. Now, it is Looney who is embracing this change, staying optimistic, and keeping his mind focused on the goal at hand: winning in the playoffs.

“At the end of the day, it may sound sappy, but I just want to be the best teammate I can be,” Looney continued. “This isn’t my first time playing this role on the bench. I’ve held a lot of different roles on this team, and that’s true when you look at the three times I was lucky enough to help bring a championship to the Bay Area. In the past, guys sacrificed for me, so now it’s my time to embrace that role.

“I need to be the one to really help carry on the tradition we have held so long within this organization of being a great teammate.”

Thompson and Paul are two future Hall of Famers in their own right. Whereas Paul is one of the greatest point guards of all time, Thompson may just be the second-greatest perimeter shooter behind Curry.

Upon being traded to the Warriors in the offseason, Paul was told he was going to be coming off the bench for Golden State. He has since embraced this role, balancing the Warriors’ second unit when Curry is not on the floor. Thompson has been in his bench role for just about a month. More scoring opportunities and less pressure have resulted in Klay recording more consistent scoring and shooting averages.

“They have really embraced their roles,” Looney said of Paul and Thompson. “You never know how a guy is going to react to coming off the bench for the first time. We all handle things differently. But those guys have been the examples of what it means to be a true professional about this. They have kind of set the precedent not only for us but around the league of: ‘If these two guys are doing it and sacrificing, then nobody else can complain.’ When you have starters like me, Chris, and Klay on the bench, it’s great for everyone else in our locker room in terms of what we see on the floor from a different perspective.

“We have the best second unit in the NBA.”

Warriors facing adversity to end season

When sacrifice is made, confidence can be lost. In regards to Looney and his new role on this year’s team, the veteran big man has been staying positive. At this point in the season, all that matters for the Warriors is winning. The Rockets are rapidlyS approaching them in the standings, and it looks very unlikely that Golden State will be able to work their way out of the play-in tournament region of the Western Conference standings.

This is new territory for the Warriors. Always known for being at the top of the Western Conference standings, the Warriors are now the hunters instead of the hunted. They are a team others in the West are overlooking because of their lackluster 36-34 record. While it is certainly true that this team can change with the snap of fingers, regaining their championship abilities, it seems like more confidence continues to leave the door with every tough loss the Warriors face.

Although he would prefer to be out on the court in his normal role with the team he has won three championships with, Looney has seized this opportunity to help others on the team, including Jackson-Davis. Energy is what the Warriors have been looking for from their bench, and even though he may not be playing every game, Looney is the leader who is always smiling and encouraging his teammates.

“It may sound crazy, but my partnership with Invisalign has really helped my confidence. I just always try to live a happy life, and being confident in my smile has helped me bring out the most in my teammates behind the scenes because when I smile, so do they.”

With 12 games remaining on their schedule, including a matchup with the Heat on Tuesday night, the room for error has disappeared for the Warriors. Now is the time for them to prove their championship pedigree once more, otherwise they run the risk of missing postseason action altogether.

The good news for the Warriors is that five of their final 12 games are against teams with a below-.500 record for the season. They also have three more games against Eastern Conference teams. This season, Golden State has gone 17-10 against teams from the East, with eight of those wins coming on the road.

The Warriors have an opportunity to regain their confidence heading into the play-in tournament. Looney is continuing to be a voice of reason for his teammates and is ready for the new challenge that awaits his team. Still, the belief that they can be successful in the playoffs remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds within the walls of the Warriors organization.

“We know it’s go time. There’s no time for excuses, no time for reminiscing on what could have been in some games. Every game matters. Every possession from here on out matters a little bit more. We are trying to win. Our only goal is to win, regardless of the outside noise and what our record says. If we execute and play to our full potential, nobody in the league can beat us in a seven-game series.

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