Storyline: Durant-Westbrook Relationship

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Speaking after Golden State’s Monday morning shootaround in OKC, Steve Kerr disputed the report. “I don’t agree,” Kerr said. “(Thunder GM) Sam Presti’s a friend of mine. I know (Thunder owner) Clay Bennett. It’s a class organization all the way, so I don’t really pay any attention to a story like that unless there’s an actual name name that’s put on it. I assume it’s just sources. Is it ‘sources’? I don’t know who that is. It’s nobody with the Warriors. We have great respect for them. Sam’s been a friend of mine forever. They’re first-class, so I don’t know where that comes from.”

But once again, even without being on the court this time, Durant is at the center of this swirling NBA drama. “This league is a very interesting place all the way through,” Steph Curry said. “Certain stories that don’t need to see the light of day, don’t need to have any life breathed into them somehow are the most popular. That’s kind of how it goes. To me, it’s kind of comical what can be put in the spotlight during an 82-game year…I actually look forward to waking up and seeing what ridiculousness is posted.”
1 month ago via ESPN

The pregame scene was just another in a weekend full of them showcasing the tension between Westbrook and Durant. At the Saturday “practice” — loose quotes at that — as the Western All-Stars were announced, they gathered at midcourt, each player running through the line dapping each other up. Durant was the second player out, behind Stephen Curry, and as Westbrook had his name called a few players after, Durant was sitting back on a table by himself as Westbrook ran out. The feeling in the practice locker room was described as “painfully quiet and uncomfortable.” In the subsequent mixed-zone media availability, Durant walked by Westbrook as the two appeared to strain so as not to make eye contact.
1 month ago via ESPN

It was jarring to watch Westbrook and Durant actively avoid each other, because it was a far cry from the way it used to be at All-Star Weekend. They’ve spent five together as teammates — both for the Western Conference and the Thunder — and while the weekend’s proceedings kept them separate for large amounts as they tended to sponsorship appearances and charity events, when they had the opportunity to, they were together. Durant and Westbrook made it a point to ride the same bus to every event they were both going to, always sitting next to each other. They would go out of the way to make sure they rode together to Sunday’s big game, with Durant driving 25 minutes in Toronto traffic to meet up with Westbrook at the Jordan Brand hotel last year. That happened in New York the year before, and in Houston in 2013 (Westbrook missed 2014 due to injury), they met in the middle.

Asked if he’ll use the opportunity to make amends with his ex-teammate, Durant said he doesn’t know. “It isn’t even something I’m thinking about, to be honest,” he said Friday on SportsCenter. “If it happens organically, it does, but I’m not planning to do anything. … If it happens, it does. If it doesn’t, it’s no big deal.” Instead, the former MVP’s priority is to enjoy the weekend’s festivities. “I’m going to handle All-Star weekend like I always do. Get in and get out. Do everything I’m supposed to do. Play the game and have some fun. I ain’t come here for it to be any drama or have a heart to heart with anybody,” he explained.

One last thing about their relationship, him and Russ. You told Adrian Wojnarowski that it’s sad for you to see that, you hate that it’s come to that. What do you think it’s gonna take for those guys to get back to what they had? Kendrick Perkins: I don’t think it’s a real beef there. I think it’s just more so maybe feathers being ruffled, just feelings being hurt. I don’t think either one of them got hard feelings. I done been around them for going on four, five years – numerous group messages to dinners to card games to whatever – and I know both of them really care about each other. And I think more so it’s the outside world that kind of blow it up and keep adding fuel to the fire. If you look back on it, either one of them never commented and said nothing negative about either one of them. I think in due time, they’ll mend. I was just talking to Russ, and Russ don’t have any hard feelings toward KD, and KD feel the same way. So I think in due time, they’ll get back on point where they’re talking again and get that relationship back.
1 month ago via ESPN

Stephen Curry: “I feel like we’ll be mature enough to just enjoy being All-Stars and being in that locker room and what wearing the West All-Star jersey means and celebrating everybody’s accomplishments. Obviously there’s competition and there’s history and whatever you want to call it. But at the end of the day we’re all trying to push our games to the next level and continue to just raise the interest [in] the NBA as a whole and do special things. And I think we all fit into that category. [I] can’t speak for KD or Russ or whatever, but being at All-Star is a special thing and you want to respect that.”
1 month ago via ESPN

1 month ago via ESPN

With Kevin Durant set to return to Oklahoma City for the first time since joining the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook talked as extensively as he has in months about his severed relationship with his former teammate. “Obviously, us playing here, we grew up here together,” Westbrook said before Saturday night’s game. “Since then, his decision has been made about what’s best for him and his future and I made the decision that was best for mine, and that’s just how it’s been.”
1 month ago via ESPN

2 months ago via ESPN

In a SportsCenter sit-down with ESPN’s Marc Stein, Durant also insisted that ?he is prepared for whatever reaction greets him at Chesapeake Energy Arena, saying: “I know what’s important [to Thunder fans] and their team is way more important than just one player. … I’m not going in there acting like I’m going to be praised, I know how it’s going to be.” “I know they’re going to be rowdy in there, man,” Durant told Stein. “I’ve been a part of some of the loudest nights in that arena. So I know it’s not going to be the friendliest welcome, but, like I said, I can’t wait to see the people that I really built relationships with over my time there and, you know, I’m sure fans that I got to know throughout my time playing there, even though they might not cheer for me out loud, I’ll give ’em a wink and they know what we had deep down inside.”
2 months ago via ESPN

“I was doing an interview with someone and I used the word ‘unselfish’ to describe my teammates here [with] the Warriors and someone asked Russell the question, asked if he heard what I said about being unselfish and he phrased the question as if I was saying that the Thunder and the organization and the team was selfish. And once I heard that, I was like, ‘They are trying to get in between this thing and make it bigger than what it is.’ “Obviously Russell wasn’t going to hear that [full] interview I had about me just talking about my teammates I have now and someone in Oklahoma City phrased it to him as if I was calling them selfish. It’s that easy. It’s that easy for the media to twist something up and for the media, you know, [to] make a feud between us.”

Never mind that Westbrook would later make it clear that the two are still not on speaking terms, or that this was just the second time Durant had seen his old team since his surprising exit from Oklahoma City last July. This, Durant explained after his 40-point, 12-rebound, four-assist, three-block performance in the Warriors’ 121-100 win at Oracle Arena, was nothing more than your typical playground scene. “That’s all it was,” Durant told USA TODAY Sports. “You talk a little trash. (There’s) no tension. Nothing went on out there. Both teams played hard. He did what he’s supposed to do. I went out there and did what I was supposed to do. It’s nothing serious, man, nothing that we’re going to take off the court, you know what I’m saying? It ain’t gonna seep into the real world. It’s just basketball talk.”

“It’s nothing. There is nothing. Nothing to even to write about,” Durant said. “He’s on his team. I’m on my team. It is not a soap opera. It’s not VH1. It’s basketball. He’s doing his thing. I’m doing my thing. Ain’t nothing to it. We will [talk] when we will [talk]. There are plenty of times when I go months without talking to my friends. I’m out here grinding, doing my thing. He’s doing his. So, ain’t no hard feelings on my side. I don’t even think about it.”

The trio combined to score 71 points in a Game 1 win over LeBron James’ Heat. They were three wins from an NBA title. Harden was 22, Durant and Westbrook were 23. The chatter was building: Would this brand new franchise, plopped in middle America, rule the NBA for the next decade? “No. We never looked at it that way, like we could be best of all-time,” Durant said. “It was really AAU basketball, man. We were just having fun. We weren’t listening to anyone on the outside, media, none of that. It was just pure fun. When we did hear something about the group, it was like, what is this? That was so foreign to us because we never paid attention to it.”

“What? F— do I look like, man? Why would I ever say that?” Westbrook said in pregame interviews, apparently unaware of the video until he was asked about it. “I would never say no other man’s name like that, for one. ‘Thank you Kyrie.’ What do I look like? I was talking to my trainer’s daughter. His daughter’s name is Jayme. ‘Thank you Jayme.’ I’m tired of – I ain’t about to keep going on that. I’m gonna keep my spirit up. I’m not about to even involve myself in no dumb stuff like that. Next question, man.” As he waited for another question, Westbrook muttered, “Dumb a– s—.”

Durant has been politically correct when answering questions about Westbrook, the Thunder and Oklahoma City since arriving at the Warriors. But he revealed that his kindness hasn’t been rewarded. “One thing I was doing too much of was I was trying to be delicate with everyone’s feelings, especially the fan base in OKC, and my former teammates,” Durant told The Undefeated. “I had to realize that they don’t care. They’re going to dissect what they’re going to dissect. I was trying to be really considerate of their feelings and everything.”

So why haven’t Durant and Westbrook resolved their divorce? “It’s because of the outsiders,” Thabeet said. “Mostly, it’s the outsiders. It’s almost like everything Russell does is a shot at Kevin. It’s not even like that. Those guys actually have their lives. I talk to Russell. Russell’s my guy. He’s married. He’s happy. He’s living his life. “At the end of the day, these outsiders will fade. Somebody is going to win this year, and they are going to forget about this moment. It’s part of sports, I guess.”
5 months ago via ESPN

5 months ago via ESPN

The upcoming matchup carries heavy amounts of hype and anticipation, with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder meeting former teammate Kevin Durant for the first time since he joined the Warriors over the summer. Asked if there’s any extra level of excitement going into Thursday’s game, Westbrook said it’s just another game on the schedule. “I play every game like it’s my last,” Westbrook said. “I play every game the same, always. Like I’ve been saying for years. And regardless of who we play, I’m going to play the same way.”
5 months ago via ESPN

Durant couldn’t hide his enthusiasm and excitement. Although he had just helped the Golden State Warriors secure a 122-114 victory over the Pelicans by registering 30 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals, his interest was centered on Westbrook. “The thing is, I’m not a hater,” Durant told ESPN on Wednesday. “Russ is a great basketball player. I love watching him play. I’m a fan of his game. I don’t wish bad things on people. That’s not what I’m about. I’ve always supported him and will continue to support him.”

“It just shows the way of the world right now. Like, a beef? Bro, I don’t beef with nobody. I’ve seen beefs go the wrong way. We’ve all seen it. The wrong way – real life wrong way, so you can’t say beef around me. I’m not into no basketball beef. Where me or Russ comes from (Seat Pleasant, Md. and Los Angeles, respectively), beef – you don’t just throw that word around like that. We have a miscommunication going on between a lot of people, a lot of assumptions – you can say that. But a beef? Nah, there ain’t no beef man. “I’m living my life. He’s living his. He’s doing his job. I’m doing mine. It’s unnecessary that you have a poll about what they’re going to say when they see each other. That’s what little kids do at the lunch table at elementary school. Like, c’mon man. Everybody’s going to say I’m ranting or I need to shut up, but you’re asking me these questions so obviously I’m going to answer them as well as I can … I ain’t got no beef with nobody.”

So I saw a tweet flying in this morning that jumped out at me, a poll where folks were trying to vote on how you and Russ would greet each other before the tip on Thursday. That kind of speaks to what the noise around you will be like, right? A: “That’s messy. That’s messy. That’s gossip. That’s like tabloids. Like, what are you doing? What are we talking about here? I’m glad you asked me about that, (because) like what are we doing? What do you want the fans to see, like obviously everybody would be happy if we come to halfcourt and then duke it out. Like, what are you doing bro? “That’s messy … We want to compete. That’s the only thing that should matter, man. We’re talking too much about what goes on in the stands, nothing about what goes on on the court. You’re not talking about nothing that goes on on the court here. What are we talking about here?

It was just a text though? A: “Yeah, I texted him, but we’ll figure that out as time goes on.” Q: Have you guys talked since? A: “No, we haven’t. You know, I’m not saying what I did was right, or I’m not saying that I was right about anything. I went about it how I thought I should have went about it. I like to sit on things and digest them and then I’ll figure out my next move, but I never said I was right for doing anything. We’ll figure that stuff out as men behind closed doors, and we’ll figure our whole relationship out behind closed doors. But yeah, it is what it is. We just try to move forward.”

Kevin Durant: “We were brothers. We are brothers. When you do a story for Rolling Stone, we talk and then he writes the story how he wants to write it. He came up with that term on his own. That got kind of miscommunicated through the entire thing. Me and Russell grew up together. I was in the phase of finding out who I was outside of basketball. He already knew who he was. He already had a stable life. He had stable parents, a girlfriend through college. I didn’t have none of that stuff. I’m trying to find out who I am, which I didn’t know, which is not a bad thing. He knew who he was. So obviously we’re going to grow toward this way (splits arms). It’s not a bad thing. It’s not at all. We still hung out. We’re boys. My interest went this way, his went that way. He got married, I didn’t. He hung with his wife. What you want me to do? I love Russ. I don’t care what nobody say. I don’t care what he say or what the fans say. Like, this is a tough time right now in our relationship. But I love Russ. I love his family. They all know that. I never did anything morally wrong. I never back-stabbed him in real life, never did anything behind his back, never told anyone anything about his character. Never did any of that. I just left teams. I just switched teams. Everyone on the outside is looking at it as, ‘Oh, you must not have liked him.’ Hell no. C’mon man. Nobody understand that part. I’m trying to find out who I am. He knew who he was. He knew what he wanted to do. He got married young. He met his girlfriend in college. I didn’t have none of that. I didn’t have two parents in a home with me. I’m still trying to search and find out who I am. We end up going this way (splits arms again) as far as off-the-court personality wise. And that’s not a bad thing.”

Q: Kendrick Perkins said something recently that on the court wise, he thought you guys didn’t value each other enough. Kevin Durant: “That’s bull****, too. I love Perk. I respect Perk. But that’s his opinion. He wasn’t there the last two years, or the last year-and-a-half. We valued each other. I went out of my way during games, ‘Throw it down there to Russ, get a basket!’ He went out of his way to toss it back to me for dunks. We valued each other. I chose a different path. I chose to go somewhere else and that has nothing to do with Russell or how we were on the court. Nah. I just chose to go a different way.”

“It just shows the way of the world right now. Like, a beef? Bro, I don’t beef with nobody. I’ve seen beefs go the wrong way. We’ve all seen it. The wrong way – real life wrong way, so you can’t say beef around me. I’m not into no basketball beef. Where me or Russ comes from (Seat Pleasant, Md. and Los Angeles, respectively), beef – you don’t just throw that word around like that. We have a miscommunication going on between a lot of people, a lot of assumptions – you can say that. But a beef? Nah, there ain’t no beef man. I’ve living my life. He’s living his. He’s doing his job. I’m doing mine. It’s unnecessary that you have a poll about what they’re going to say when they see each other. That’s what little kids do at the lunch table at elementary school. Like, c’mon man. Everybody’s going to say I’m ranting or I need to shut up, but you’re asking me these questions so obviously I’m going to answer them as well as I can … I ain’t got no beef with nobody.”

Q: So you’ve taken some heat for the fact that when you made your decision (in free agency) you didn’t call Russ and only texted him. Was that the case and what’s your view of the criticism on that front? Kevin Durant: “I mean we’ll talk about that. Me and him will talk about that. You’ve done heard just about everything about me and how I handle stuff, and I – we talked, but it might not have been the way that we should have (done) it. I’ll put it that way. I own up to that.” Q: It was just a text though? Kevin Durant: “Yeah, I texted him, but we’ll figure that out as time goes on.” Q: Have you guys talked since? Kevin Durant: “No, we haven’t. You know, I’m not saying what I did was right, or I’m not saying that I was right about anything. I went about it how I thought I should have went about it. I like to sit on things and digest them and then I’ll figure out my next move, but I never said I was right for doing anything. We’ll figure that stuff out as men behind closed doors, and we’ll figure our whole relationship out behind closed doors. But yeah, it is what it is. We just try to move forward.”

The two had bonded in Kalamian’s six seasons as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The two have stayed in touch in the year since Kalamian made the move to Toronto, and since Durant made his bold move to the Golden State Warriors this summer. The content of Durant’s text did surprise the coach that day, though. “Your two guys are the best. I’m jealous of their relationship, the way they get along with each other and the way they play together. The way they enjoy each other, it’s great,” Kalamian said of that text on Monday, as the Raptors finished up their practice. Durant, all the way from the Olympics in Rio, was in awe of the friendship that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had on display with the U.S. men’s basketball team. “I think it’s kind of what he wants,” Kalamian continued. “He wants that bond with someone . . . and I think he’s going to find that. “Early on in OKC, we had that.”

Both players are among the NBA’s most talented, but that bond that Durant is after had been gone for some time. It disappeared at the start of the 2012-13 season when the Thunder traded James Harden to Houston. “We had that (bond) really with James Harden. He was a connector of everyone. He brought Westbrook, Durant and (Serge) Ibaka and they all kind of connected, they all came together,” Kalamian said. “James is a big reason and when he left I think Kevin said . . . that trade was the beginning of the end for him and now there wasn’t that connection as much. “Kevin and Russell, they respect the heck out of each other, no question about it. They played well together, they work well together, they communicate, but I think the connection was lost a little bit for whatever reason.”

“This is professional sports,” Westbrook sniffs. “You have to live with it. I just continued about my day.” As the afternoon wore on, and more dominoes were played, Beverly turned the topic to Oklahoma City and the franchise left behind. “I like my team,” Westbrook told him. “I still really like my team.” His tone took Beverly back a decade, to the blank navy thermal sweatshirts they wore in layup lines at Leuzinger High, as rivals from Westchester and Artesia rocked shiny jackets with shoe company logos. Westbrook, desperate for a college scholarship, could have mulled a transfer. “Oh no,” he says now, cutting off the question. “No, no, no. That school was where I’m from. It’s where my friends went. I was never going to leave. I was never going to be a follower.”

Not long after Durant’s decision Westbrook returned to Oklahoma City for his annual basketball camp, and general manager Sam Presti met him back at the dog-food gym. The Thunder were prepared to offer Westbrook a maximum contract extension, and if he turned it down, they’d have no choice but to consider those trade offers. “I don’t want you to do this because you feel you need to,” Presti said. “I want you to do it because you want to.” Westbrook could have told Presti that he’d talk about free agency next year, setting up the Summer of Russ, and all the ensuing attention. But Presti had a pretty good feeling that he wouldn’t. “One way or another he lets you know where you stand,” Adams says, “and he doesn’t do it with a whisper. He does it with a few more decibels than that.”

His guests had come to toast him—a son of South L.A. on a spread in Beverly Hills—but they did not know what to say, and neither did he. The first call came from Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, who heard the disbelief in Westbrook’s voice. “You have to do your job,” Weaver said, “and trust us to do ours.” Then OKC power forward Nick Collison, who had been in the private room at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood a week earlier, when Westbrook asked Durant what he could do and how he could change. “He went above and beyond,” Collison says. Westbrook offered to fly to the Hamptons mansion where Durant was holding free-agent pitch meetings.

Though he’s too shrewd to say it, that series of betrayals eventually broke his heart. “For nine years, he refused to speak a word against that team – he loved those guys and that city,” says his mom, Wanda Durant, who’s been his best friend and confidante since he started his b-ball journey at the age of eight. “But this summer he said, ‘Mama, I can’t do it anymore. They’re not in this thing with me, we’re not together like we were – I feel like I need something different.’ ”

Meanwhile, Durant studied the body language of the players at his table. “They just liked each other so much and were so relaxed,” he says. “I thought, ‘These are some chill-ass dudes I wouldn’t mind hooping with.’ I wasn’t even asking, ‘How do we play together?’ I was asking, ‘Where do y’all go eat, do y’all hang out together?'” These were salient questions for Durant. As close as people presumed he and Westbrook had been, they were never much more than work friends, he says. “We had our own cliques that we hung with on the road. Russell had his guys, I had mine. It was never a bad thing. Just how it was.”

In the days that followed Durant’s departure, Westbrook was said to be angry and hurt, but he stayed largely quiet. Even now, months later, he’s careful with his words. He knows how things can sound, knows the value of striking a conciliatory tone. “I mean, obviously in the NBA there’s a lot of different decisions that people make,” he says. “The whole thing in the NBA is that people sometimes have an opportunity to go where they want. And Kevin chose a place where he wanted to go.” So, have they talked much since? “Uhh, not much, no.”

Speaking at training camp following OKC’s preseason loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday, a reporter asked Westbrook about these comments from Westbrook’s former teammate, Kevin Durant, earlier this week: “I wanted to see if what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen on the outside is really true. Do these guys really genuinely love each other? They work together. You hear family a lot. That’s just a word sometimes, but this is really a lifestyle here. You can feel it when you walk in the door, in the practice facility, everybody is just together. That’s something that I can appreciate as a basketball player and someone who values relationships. You can tell that that’s what they stand on, that’s what we stand on.”

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March 26, 2017 | 9:28 pm EDT Update