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Why there’s ‘no chance’ of Kevon Looney leaving Warriors this summer

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Why there’s ‘no chance’ of Kevon Looney leaving Warriors this summer

Sometimes the messages are nuanced critiques of how Looney executed a dribble-handoff or defended a pick-and-roll. Other times, they are broader observations about how Looney comported himself.

Kevin has texted Looney during games for well over half a decade – not just because it helps him handle the stress of watching his son play, but because Looney takes the feedback seriously. If he receives a note from his dad telling him to take a different angle on a certain type of screen, Looney will make that adjustment the next game.

This ability to learn and evolve might be Looney’s biggest strength. Before he gained national attention in recent days for several big-time playoff performances, he overcame serious hip issues and a neuropathic condition, overhauled his dietlearned how to play center, and built a reputation as one of the Warriors’ most reliable – albeit overlooked – role players.

Lost in all the speculation about what Golden State can do to re-sign Gary Payton II this summer and ink Jordan Poole to a multi-year extension is the fact that Looney is about to become an unrestricted free agent. When that day comes in early July, the Warriors will do whatever is necessary to ensure he sticks around through the rest of his prime.

Logic suggests that Looney’s playoff surge would spike his market value. But according to salary-cap expert Keith Smith, Looney is due to command offers between $ 6 and $ 7 million – roughly where he was projected before he became a driving force behind three straight postseason wins.

This speaks to a basic truth: Looney means more to the Warriors than he could to any other team. By studying the likes of Draymond GreenDavid West, Andrew Bogut and Zaza Pachulia, he transformed himself into the ideal starting center for head coach Steve Kerr‘s system – a no-frills big man who is seldom out of position defensively or slow to crash the offensive glass.

Though Looney scored a career-high 21 points in Friday’s Game 2 win over the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, few believe he has much offensive upside. His biggest contributions – stabilizing the defense, limiting mistakes, setting textbook screens – often can not be found in a box score.

“I think teams tell themselves, ‘Kevon’s great for the Warriors, but that’s not going to translate to every team,'” said Smith, who works for Spotrac – a leading authority on salary-cap breakdowns in sports. “Also, he does not shoot from distance. He does not really handle the ball.

“He’s a good defender, but he’s not an All-Defensive-level guy. Generally, when you’re a solid role guy like that who’s a perfect fit for one particular system, you’re in that under- $ 10-million range come free agency. ”

This is good news for Warriors general manager Bob Myers, who will make re-signing Looney a top priority this summer. A $ 6 or $ 7 million contract would have significant luxury-tax implications for a team well over the salary cap, but Looney is worth it to Golden State’s decision-makers.

Smith went so far as to say that “there is no chance” Looney leaves the Warriors in free agency. In Golden State, he has found a supportive environment where his teammates and coaches appreciate his understated approach. Two years ago, when health issues threatened to derail his career, Looney worked with the Warriors’ training staff to find a diet and workout regimen that suited him.

Now, after being the team’s only player to play all 82 regular-season games, he is perhaps the single biggest reason it enters Game 3 against the Mavericks on Sunday with a 2-0 series lead. With Dallas paying the Warriors’ shooters so much attention, Looney has been free to throw down two-handed dunks and grab rebounds.

“You kind of have a core group of guys that represent your culture, your identity, what you’re about,” Kerr said. “Generally, those guys are mentors and leaders. We feel their presence every day. It impacts the whole group. That’s what Loon is for us.

“I do not think he’s ever been late for anything. He’s in the weight room, in the training room, getting his work done every single day. He’s just got that quiet strength that I think most people are drawn to. There’s kind of a humility and a consistency that you see every day. ”

Looney will never make an All-Star team, but he has carved out a special place in Warriors history by taking his dad’s feedback and getting better game by game. Years from now, when Golden State unveils statues of Green, Stephen Curry spirit Klay Thompson outside Chase Center, it might also find a way to salute all Looney has provided.

Perhaps a mural of his likeness. Perhaps even something more low-key, just as he would prefer.

“I would not say I feel left out,” Looney said of often not being mentioned alongside Green, Curry and Thompson as part of the Warriors’ core. “Those guys make me feel involved. The Bay Area always shows me a lot of love, and the fans show me a lot of love.

“I feel honored just to be part of the ride.”

Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: cletourneau@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @Con_Chron

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