Kevon Looney: “Hopefully I’ll Be Able to Play Tuesday”

Kevon Looney (left) watches the Santa Cruz Warriors during pregame warm ups
Kevon Looney (left) watches the Santa Cruz Warriors during pregame warm ups /

Kevon Looney says he could possibly make his rookie debut with the Santa Cruz Warriors on Tuesday.

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — In between games at the 2016 NBA D-League Showcase in Santa Cruz, Blue Man Hoop was able to chat Saturday with Golden State Warriors rookie Kevon Looney, who’s currently on assignment with the team’s D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors.

For those that don’t know: Looney, 19, was drafted by Golden State with the 30th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-9-inch forward has been unable to see any time on floor this season having undergone right hip surgery to repair a torn labrum last August. His assignment to Santa Cruz last Monday comes after he was cleared for contact practices the week prior.

Working out with Santa Cruz, Looney reportedly went through two practices with the team sometime last week. Per the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Looney also went live with the team in a 5-on-5 scrimmage. Santa Cruz head coach Casey Hill had this to say on Looney following the practice:

"“His instincts are still there. He went live with us once and played pretty well,” Hill said of Looney. “He’s still a little off-balance and his strength and his edge isn’t quite there. But that will come the more he plays with us and stays with us and continues to work.”"

Talking with Looney, he confirmed that he went live with the team, saying that his hip has been responding positively as he works to get back in shape.

"“Hip is going good. It feels good, I’m ready to play,” Looney said.“I went live for the first time [in practice], that was my first time getting up and down the court. It was a lot of fun, I feel good out there, my hip was reacting good to it…it was a good experience.”"

Looney last played competitively back in July during the 2015 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he says he first became familiar with Coach Hill and Golden State interim coach, Luke Walton. In six Summer League games, Looney averaged 9.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks.

When asked whether there was any rust on his game after being on basketball hiatus for nearly half a year, Looney said the rust was minuscule and remained consistent with how well his hip was responding.

"“I missed a couple shots that I usually make, but other than that, I’ve been running good,” Looney said. “I still got my instincts for the rebounds and stuff, so I was pretty happy with my performance.”"

A one-year player for UCLA, Looney averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds and led all freshmen with 15 double-doubles. Asked whether being a double-double machine in college puts any pressure on him to do the same for the Warriors, Looney explained that the reigning champions are thankfully in a position where they can afford to be patient with his development.

"“I don’t feel a lot of pressure…since the team is so good, they’re not really counting on me to make an impact,” Looney said. “Whatever I do is a plus for them. So I come in, no pressure. I’m just gonna play my game.”"

Looney’s return to the hardwood has been highly anticipated by fans, who may just get their wish soon. According to Looney, he said he’s hopeful he could make his debut for Santa Cruz on Tuesday against the Idaho Stampede in Idaho. This was confirmed by Coach Hill, who said that while it may not be for sure, it was probable that Looney would have limited minutes against the Stampede on Tuesday.

"“I wouldn’t etch that in granite by any stretch of the imagination, but I would say that’s probably what it is,” Hill said of the plan to get Looney playing by Tuesday.“His minutes restriction will be probably between 18-20 minutes. It will go up steadily every game after that.”"

As for Golden State, the team is currently 35-2, sporting the best record to start an NBA regular season ever. Though he has yet to play alongside them, Looney mentioned that being in such close proximity to guys like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green has been nothing short of extraordinary.

"“Being around greatness like that is always amazing,” Looney said. “Being part of something special, being part of the streak…seeing them guys everyday, seeing all the work they put in and how it pays off has been a great learning experience.”"

Santa Cruz is currently on a 2-game losing streak after losing to the Iowa Energy and Sioux Falls Skyforce during the D-League Showcase. The team is currently in a period of transition after Elliot Williams was called up to the NBA on a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Next: Warriors Lose Two Games in D-League Showcase