Kevin Lonn leads Golden State in returning to the Dallas Mavericks

SAN FRANCISCO – The day before Kevin Looney played the best game of his professional career, he was sitting in a corridor in San Francisco at the Chase Center, thinking about how his role had changed since Golden State announced its 2015 draft.

It was a team known for its small lineup; That’s how he won the championship that year. At 6-foot-9, despite having wingspan of more than seven feet, the loon was considered small.

Looney laughed at the thought, and then counted a little more.

“Sometimes it’s like a slap in the face when they say, ‘They have no size,'” Loni said, referring to how people sometimes talk about Golden State. In my third year I can say that we do not have a big size – I am not the biggest guy – but today I am a medium-sized center, so I do not feel small. The big man is no more. “

As a rule, Lonnie is not the most talked about member of the Warriors. He spent less than two weeks in the draft after Golden State won his first championship under Steve Kerr and was part of the team for four consecutive NBA Finals and two championships. After tackling early injury problems, he became an important part of the Golden State rankings and this year was one of only five players to play in all 82 games of the regular season.

In this year’s playoffs, Golden State was able to count on him. He did not start in games 1 through 5 against their Memphis Grizzly in their Western Conference semifinal series, then started and took 22 rebounds in Game 6, which ended the series.

In Friday night’s 2nd game in the Western Conference Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, Looney scored 21 points with 12 rebounds in a 126-117 comeback. It was the first time since his only season at UCLA that he has scored more than 20 points in a single game. It was also the first time the Warriors center had scored 20 points in the playoffs with at least 10 rebounds since 1977.

“We see the hard work he has put into making this a reality,” said Golden State Guard Stephen Curry. “Now, in the playoffs, just take the next step. It brings great joy to what we do in the dressing room. I will refer to it as the muse in the dressing room. He just has good behavior towards her. He is the bridge between veterinarians and young boys. His adaptation for this role is awesome. ”

Kerr called Looney “everyone’s favorite guy.”

Forward Draymond Green called him a master of professionalism.

“He is the same professional he is today, he was when he came to the league,” Green said.

Looney Green may have predicted professionalism and equality, but the truth was that when Looney was introduced, he was a 19-year-old with wide eyes trying not to break anything.

This team was going high after the championship and its job was to adjust and not to stand out. As the only novice, he had no one with common experience with whom he talked about what it was like and what he had to do.

“It was really scary,” Lonnie said.

That July, he was in Las Vegas after playing in the NBA Summer League, where teams place their young players and NBA hopefuls. Veterans of his team were in Las Vegas for a Players Union Awards show, and one night Andre Iguodala sent a message asking him to bring donuts.

“It’s like 1 in the morning,” Looney said with a laugh. “I did not even know if it was serious or not. The first day I am already scared. I do not want to fuss on my first day.

He attended the awards show, but when the team took the stage together, he said he was too shy to join them. This embarrassment continued at the start of the season when the team went 24-0 up to an NBA record 73 wins.

“They joked that I did not speak for the first six months,” Lonnie said.

In addition to requesting a donut delivery at 1 a.m., Iguodala took Lonnie under his wing and helped him adapt. Greene would invite Looney to spend time with him to make him feel more comfortable in this new environment.

This helped in the dressing room, but Looney faced other challenges. He underwent thigh surgery before the rookie year began. Then he had another thigh injury in the second season.

Looney never missed a game in college or high school and called the injuries “devastating.”

“We did not know what we had,” Kerr said, noting that the team did not choose Looney’s contract option for the fourth season because he did not play much. He continued: “And then, in the third year, he has a wonderful year, as if, oh, we could lose this guy.”

Looney was well aware of what questions the organization had about him, but he was comforted by the support of his teammates.

“I always got respect from my teammates and that made me keep going, which made me feel good and I knew I was going to do the right thing,” Lonnie said. Even if the fans – you may have a bad game, the fans may say you are not good enough, someone may say you are not good enough – but when teammates say, for example, “Man, I’m not” I wonder what the statistics say “I want to be with Lun,” it’s a great honor. “

Lonnie was inactive during the playoffs during his first two seasons. But in Season Three, he began to play an important role for the Warriors and contributed to their 2017-18 championship. He often defended the best players.

Now 26 years old, he is a veteran on a team that includes young boys who are going through to the first playoffs. Lonnie knows what it was like and tries to help them in the process.

And if Golden State wins another championship this year, given its contribution, it feels a little more special.

“Influencing and starting a lot of this game, playing in the playoffs, being on the team, playing important roles in the playoffs, it means a lot to me,” Lonnie said. “It would just be like a cherry that I could close it and win and be there for my team.”

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