3 takeaways from Kevon Looney’s interview with The Athletic

Golden State Warriors big man Kevon Looney is coming off perhaps his best season in the NBA, and as he prepares for his fifth season, he’s looking forward to an increased role.

Looney recently spoke in an interview with The Athletic’s Anthony Slater about his expectations for the upcoming season. Along with speaking about his goals, Looney spoke on what the free agency process was like this offseason. He also spoke about the chest injury he suffered in the NBA Finals.

Here are three takeaways from Looney’s conversation with The Athletic.

Bigger role for the 2019-20 season

Last season, Looney played a career-high 18.5 minutes a game, but for this upcoming season Looney is looking at even more playing time. Per Slater, coach Steve Kerr is saying Looney could possibly play 30 minutes a game.

Looney, 23, is not shying away from taking on more minutes, though.

“Definitely. That’s what you work for, an opportunity for a bigger role,” Looney said. “Steve’s trusted me more each year. He’s telling me to expand my game, be more aggressive, be more talkative on the defensive end.”

Throughout his career, Looney has played around the basket, being a serviceable roll man in the pick-and-roll. Now, Looney is working on developing his game and shooting more 3-pointers. Looney has shot 26 3-pointers during his career, and he’s made five of them.

“Steve gave me the green light. Well, he gave me the green light before, but this one, it feels a little different,” Looney said. “Like, even if you miss, I want you to keep shooting because we need you to make that shot.”

The free agency process

Looney signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Warriors in July. He said he had to take a small pay cut with Golden State bringing D’Angelo Russell onto the team on a max contract.

Still, Looney said he wanted to be with the Warriors, a team that still has talent despite a rocky offseason.

“I could always hear my vets in the back of my ear. They always say, “Get every dollar … but … as long as you can be here, stay. There’s no other place like this,” Looney said.

Looney said he had some meetings and phone calls with teams, and he knew he’d get around $5 million a year wherever he chose to go. With the Warriors making other moves, Looney wanted to make sure he stuck with the team.

“I know the Warriors like to move fast,” Looney said. “They were making a lot of changes with the team. I knew — if I wasn’t going to get a big payday — this was where I wanted to be. So I made it happen.”

Impact of chest injury in the Finals — and beyond

During Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Looney slid into the key to defend an oncoming Kawhi Leonard. Leonard bumped him, and Looney fell to the floor.

At first Looney said he thought the pain was just a “stinger.” But the pain worsened, and he found out he suffered a costal cartilage fracture. The injury affected Looney’s chest area, and he was ruled out indefinitely after Game 2. He missed Game 3, but he played through the injury for the rest of the series while wearing a padded vest.

Looney said the first day after his injury he was in “a whole lot of pain.” But as the days went on, he started to feel like he could at least play despite the pain.

“But after a couple days of treatment, I started to feel more like I did right after the fall, where it was hurting, but I was able to have enough strength to move around,” Looney said.

“After a couple days, I talked to Rick (Celebrini, the Warriors’ director of sports medicine). He talked to a few more doctors. I talked to a few more doctors. They told me it couldn’t get worse.”

Looney said he was recently cleared for 5-on-5 work and is healthy now. He said he’s still working on doing “small rehab stuff,” though to keep the area where he was injured strong.

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