We come today with the specific purpose of praising Kevon Looney.
In an NBA era where you are defined by how well you shoot the 3-point shot, how far from the basket you can be when you shoot the 3-point shot, how many 3-point shots you can attempt, how many times you can design a play to get a look at a 3-point shot, and how many times you can pass up an easy 2-point shot to look for a lower percentage 3-point shot… Looney has become arguably the Warriors MVP (Most Vital Player) by attempting precisely zero 3-point shots.
Of course, Steph Curry is the Warriors most valuable player. Duh.
And Draymond Green, as Steve Kerr has said, even post-Poole punch and post-Sabonis ejection, is the Warriors’ heartbeat.
But here we are in April 2023 and a 27-year-old Kevon Looney is the Warriors’ MVP — most vital — player because he does three crucial things at a championship level:
He grabs rebounds at a clip so robust, there is no player in the NBA besting his 14.4 rebounds per game average this postseason. Looney stands alone.
He passes the ball to players who make baskets, ranking in the top 20 in assists in the postseason.
And he plays defense like a Brahman bull has been put in a Dubs jersey, banging torsos and knees and heads and elbows with Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis in the key. Spoiler alert: Sabonis has been a minus in each of the last three games in the plus/minus category.
These things are vital. These things are lifeblood. These things are not the 3-point shot.
Play defense. Pass to the open man. Grab a rebound.
Or 22 rebounds, if you’d like. That’s what Looney did on Wednesday night, tying a career high set against Memphis last postseason.
Kevon Looney: bringing the fundamentals of basketball from the black-and-white TV era back to your iPhone/artificial intelligence world.
Almost makes you want to pass on the latest “Succession” on HBO Max and dial up an old “Honeymooners” on Nick at Nite.
The Jock Blog is earnest in its attempt to highlight what Looney is doing. He is not a Splash Brother. He scored precisely 4, 8 and 4 points in the three Warriors’ wins. He “doesn’t look the part”, as Steve Kerr said after the Game 5 win. (Which caused us to wonder: Who does look the part? Does he mean Dwight Howard’s Mr. Olympia physique? Or does he mean a mid-90s George Clooney?)
And in the process, Looney is attaining an almost spiritual status among his teammates. The NBA is a grind, and Looney’s veteran mates like Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have noted Looney’s long and winding road. Hip woes derailed his first two seasons, and in his third season, the Warriors were so skeptical of his longevity did not pick up his option. Lucky for them, he re-signed anyway. He changed his diet completely, and put the hard work in on maintaining his body. Now, he’s indispensable, and he just grabbed three or four rebounds while you read that paragraph.
Steve Kerr likes to say “the ball is everything.” Well, Kevon Looney just grabbed the ball.
Last year during the run to the championship, Looney opened eyes with his 22-rebound game in the key Game 6 clincher vs Memphis. By the time the Warriors beat the Celtics for the title, Looney had Kerr telling reporters “we didn’t know what we had” and Curry saying Looney’s yoga-induced calm had him “like a muse” in the locker room.
Wednesday night in Sacramento, Green offered an updated ode on Looney, comparing him to savvy bench vets of yore Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, saying he brings a “calm” to the Dubs in times of crisis. Funny enough, Looney is six years younger than Green and Klay Thompson, and eight years younger than Curry.
That’s what you’d lovingly call an old soul, sports fans.
An old soul playing old school ball, winning games in the brand-new era.