by Melissa Rollin
FOX Sports NBA Writers
It seemed to be the happiest night. Kevon Rooney‘s life.
Expected to be in the top 20 of the 2015 NBA Draft in New York, Looney sits with his family at one of the best tables downstage, waiting for his name to be called.
I called the first 20 names. Rooney was not among them. Then came 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. His name has not yet been announced.
It was so humiliating that at one point Looney and his family were invited to the next room so that the camera would not accidentally continue broadcasting their disappointment.
In the end, Rooney was selected by the Golden State Warriors with the 30th overall pick.
That night seven years ago, Looney lit the fire in preparation for what would happen on Friday. One of the biggest stages in the sport was the best performance of his career.
Looney posted a career-high 21 points and game-high 12 rebounds that helped lead the Warriors over the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
A highlight of his career was inspired by low light.
“When I was invited to the Green Room, I thought, ‘Oh, this is a dream,'” Looney told FOX Sports. “But I don’t know when I’ll be selected as I watch everyone draft so I don’t call until the 30th pick. Actually, I went out and came back. It was both good and sad at the same time. Put a chip on my shoulder.”
It took a while for Looney to blossom into today’s player. He is a confident and dependable 6 foot 9 inch tall man who attacks Yuri, makes smart decisions and is a powerful defender.
Rooney’s first two seasons in the NBA were hampered by injuries. He made only five appearances as a rookie and required surgery to repair a torn labrum in both of his hips. He then suffered from left hip strain in his second season.
Eventually, the Warriors questioned whether it was worth keeping him.
“In that third year we didn’t take his option because we had never actually seen him play,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “And the third year, [had] good year We might lose this guy. Fortunately, we got him back and he’s getting better.”
The former UCLA stalwart has proven to be a valuable asset to the Warriors, who complemented Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with great screen settings and board smashing.
The Warriors rewarded him two seasons ago with a three-year, $15 million extension. However, Looney continues to suffer from a variety of injuries and ailments, including painful neuropathy and debilitating gastrointestinal problems.
Finally, things turned around for him this season.
Rooney, who appeared in just 20 games two seasons ago, appeared in all 82 games in this tournament, averaging 6 points, 57.1% from the field and 7.3 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
And in the playoffs, he’s never had a better moment than Friday.
With the Warriors behind a whopping 19 points in the first half, Looney scored 11 points from a 5-6 shooting in the third quarter, nearly the same as the entire Mavericks team combined (13 points).
He was patrolling the paint, waiting for the wrong shot. He dribbled across the lane to get the powerful ball into the basket and score well past several defenders. He alternated between attackers and scavengers while he dominated the paint.
Looney is a grumpy guy who doesn’t score much, but in the second leg these unique jobs were perfectly integrated for him. He was hailed as “MVP” by sold-out crowds at the Chase Center. The first question he got when he went up to the interview podium was if he remembered the last time he scored 20 points.
He smiled knowingly. It was during his freshman year of college at UCLA.
After that fateful night in the NBA Draft almost 10 years ago and after countless struggles, his brilliant performances are a testament to his unwavering faith in him.
“Everything was going the wrong way, but I always kept my composure and kept working,” Looney told FOX Sports. “And things are going well. Having a moment like this is special to me.”
It was also special for the people around him.
Kerr ignited the fire by asking four questions about Rooney, who was part of the team’s championship runs in 2017 and 2018.
“Loon is everyone’s favorite,” said the Warriors manager. “You know, he is very respected in the locker room. He is an amazing pro. He does his job every day. Whether we play him for 10 minutes or 32 minutes, his attitude is the same. His work ethic is the same.”
Looney was pushed out of the starting lineup after the Warriors decided to go small in a two-round playoff series against Memphis Grizzlies, but he remained unmoved and ready.
Kerr picked him up as the starter in Game 6 and Looney exploded 22 rebounds, helping his team finish the series.
There is something about his fighting spirit, determination, perseverance and attitude that inspires everyone around him.
“He brings a lot of joy to what we do in the locker room,” said Curry, who scored 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Game 2 in Game 2. “I’ll call him the locker room muse. He has a great attitude towards him. He acts as a bridge between the veterinarian and the youngster.”
It’s easy to understand why he’s so good.
After a career night, Looney walked into the locker room and was asked what was her favorite moment on the court.
He shook his head.
“I didn’t play a lot in some matches, but my best moment is still winning championships with them,” Looney told FOX Sports. “But I was there and I contributed to a certain series, so I felt a part of it.”
In the current playoffs, Rooney no longer needs to “feel” part of the playoffs.
that is part of it. essential part.
For a man who entered the league with shame, now he is respected by the ring and those around him.
30 isn’t bad either.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA Writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league in Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Times, Bay Area News Group, and San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on her Twitter @.melissarin.
Get more information from the National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to stay informed about games, news and more.