Just over four years ago, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay
Thompson, Draymond Green and the defending NBA champion Golden
State Warriors were shooting around on a chilly morning in
Cleveland. As his teammates got their shots up, Shaun Livingston
was sitting nearby on the baseline.
He foreshadowed his upcoming retirement that would happen at the
end of that campaign, but glowingly talked about the Warriors'
player development staff and the young talents who were next in
line to carry along the franchise's legacy. Unprompted, after a
question about Golden State's future, Livingston looked over with a
"I mean, that’s a perfect example,” Livingston told me, referencing Kevon in Dec.
2018. “He’s our most important big right now with Draymond
[Green] out, know what I mean? ‘Cause of what he brings to the
table and he knows how to play. He’s always in the right spot.
“So that’s the progression of him being here these years and
watching, learning from the vets — watching Andre [Iguodala],
watching Draymond. And now he’s one of the main core guys that has
to be on the floor.”
It's safe to say Livingston knew what he was talking about all
of those years ago. Now in his eighth season, having played in 179
straight games (postseason included), Kevon Looney is the Warriors'
ironman and a main fixture of this ball club. He's a three-time NBA
champion and among the top screen-setting centers in the league,
using his physicality and will to outwork his opponents (as we saw
Friday evening in Cleveland).
Outrebounding the Cavaliers' duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan
Mobley combined (17 boards to their 15), while also registering two
steals, two blocks and four assists, Looney helped the Warriors
finish their East-Coast visit with a 3-2 record despite being
Following the Warriors' 120-114 victory, Basketball News sat
down with the 26-year-old to discuss the win, Golden State's
season, his development and more:
Considering how this team has played on the road in the
first half of the season, what can a 3-2 trip, especially the way
it ended, do for you guys going forward?
Kevon Looney: "I think we had a good road trip.
Whenever you can come out on a road trip playing against good teams
like this, 3-2, it's always good. Especially since we've been
struggling all year on the road, so it was a good win for us. But
we felt like we should've won (Thursday in Boston), so to be able
to bounce back after a tough loss like that shows our team's
character, shows the growth on our team."
How do you feel like you have grown over the years,
going from putting in work behind the scenes to now, playing
winning basketball the way you have? It's clear that you have come
a long way.
Looney: "Yeah, I've been working on my game
since I've been here. In my career, I've had a lot of great vets, a
lot of great mentors to learn from. It was a struggle for me early,
but all those struggles helped prepare me for now. When I'm out
there, I'm just trying to provide that leadership and provide that
toughness for our team that we'll be lacking sometimes. It took me
a while to learn all that stuff (laughs), but now that I learned
and got some experience and got that confidence, I feel really good
out there and I feel like I'm playing the best basketball of my
In what way do you feel like you can impact the game the
most, other than that leadership aspect you just brought
Looney: "I feel like defensively, and
rebounding — that's something that we've always struggled with
since I've been here, and I feel like I've been taking a leap every
year in that department. And I take pride in being really physical
and controlling the glass. People always say our team is
undersized, so I take a lot of pride in going out there and
controlling the glass. I felt last year, we had a great rebounding
team. This year, we've been up and down in that area. But nights
like (Friday in Cleveland), we did a great job though."
(Editor's Note: Looney is averaging 8.7 rebounds per game, a
career-high, and ranks fifth in the NBA with 139 total offensive
rebounds. According to Basketball-Reference, Looney is top-five in
rebounding percentage at 20.3%.)
The dribble-handoff development in your game is
impressive. You're also in the NBA's top 10 with 449 screen-assist
points. As far as gaining chemistry with your teammates, how
has that come about?
Looney: "Just getting more experience and
getting more reps, learning where guys like to get to on the floor
and learning them guys' spots. Know when to get certain guys shots,
know where these guys are going. It's something I learned from
watching Draymond [Green], watching [Andrew] Bogut, Zaza [Pachulia]
— some of the best screeners I've ever seen. So learning from them
took my game to that level. Talking to Steph [Curry], talking to JP
(Jordan Poole), talking to the guys coming off the bench, knowing
where they want to be at is something that you've got to learn.
Early on, it was a struggle for me, but now, I do it in my
Without giving too much strategy away, is there a
difference between where Steph likes the ball and how Jordan wants
Looney: "Yeah (laughs). Playing with JP, he's
really herky-jerky and he's kinda all over the court. He's really
creative out there. I think Steph is a little bit more decisive. He
kinda know where he wants to get to, I know what spots he really
wants to get to. But JP's like free-flowing, he's like all over the
place (laughs). We talk all the time like, 'Man, slow down. Let me
do my job and I'mma get you open' (laughs). We have those talks all
the time. So it's a big difference playing with both of 'em, but
it's a lot of fun."
All of those Finals and playoff experiences that you've
got under your belt now — being on the floor and a part of these
loud environments at home and on the road — what's the important
thing you've learned both on and off the floor?
Looney: "Just how to stay poised and how to
weather adversity. (Laughs) I got to experience a lot of the tough
playoff games, lot of ups and downs in series. And learning that if
a team goes on a run, it's not the end of the world. If you go down
3-1, 2-1, it's not the end of the world. You can come back.
Different things like that. I learned playing with these guys and
seeing them going down in series, never giving up. In the Houston
series (in 2018), we were down 15 at halftime and nobody's worried,
everybody would just keep fighting and keep playing our style of
basketball. So learning that, trusting the process, trusting in
your system, trusting in your teammates on and off the court, it'll
really carry you a far way."
And that kind of mentality has to help in a season like
this where not everything has gone perfect.
Looney: "Yes, it definitely helps you in a
season like this when it's a lot of ups and downs. You just kinda
lean back on our culture and what we have built, knowing that if we
play our style of basketball and our brand, that we can go... it
works. Just leaning back on that.
"When we start not playing team basketball, not focusing on what
got us there, that's when we started losing and straying away (from
it). But when you've got experience winning, you know what it takes
and you start going back to the basics. We've gotta do that. We've
been doing that on this road trip, and I think that's why we've