Frank Hassle: Did Durant really tell Russ he was coming…

Frank Hassle: Did Durant really tell Russ he was coming back? Or did you just misspeak on the @TrueHoopTV pod? You saying he lied to Russ? – Royce Young: I’m not sure what I said. What I meant is Westbrook believed Durant would come back after their meeting.

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On the ESPN Truehoop podcast, Brian Windhorst, Kevin Pelton, and Royce Young followed up on Young’s original story, and Young elaborated even more on why Westbrook would feel betrayed. PBT transcribed: Royce Young: Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant’s sitting there at dinner, telling him “Hey, I’m coming back, man. Don’t worry about it.” And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected. […]
Royce Young: Kevin Durant, more so than even that, was telling people, “Hey, yeah, I mean I’m coming back.” Like I said in there, a week before Kevin Durant sat down in the Hamptons, he was in Oklahoma City ready to make an offer on a multi-million-dollar house. So, the guy was pretty serious about coming back, and then things turned rather quickly for him to leave. And there’s no doubt that the organization felt a little bit burned by this.
Westbrook is taking time not just to figure out his next steps, but also to lick his own wounds. Reports have come out suggesting Westbrook's style of play influenced Durant to leave, though Durant publicly denied that in Las Vegas recently. The two have not spoken since Durant's decision. Those close to Westbrook say he's both angry and hurt not only by Durant's decision to leave but also because Durant didn't even call to tell him personally. Westbrook wasn't prepared to be in this position -- three weeks ago, like everyone else, he thought Durant was coming back. And he had to learn the hard way he wasn't.
Durant and his new Golden State Warriors teammate were close, and Green was actively recruiting him for months. On Adrian Wojnarowski’s “The Vertical Pod,” Woj discussed Durant’s exit with Jeff Van Gundy. In an expansive conversation, Wojnarowski dropped this bomb: “I know Russell (Westbrook) was bothered by — and some other teammates were too — of, like, there was some knowledge there that Draymond (Green) was in contact with Kevin (Durant) all season long and they’re in a playoff series and I know there was some conversation around the Thunder team of ‘Hey man, this guy kicked Steven Adams in the nuts twice in this series and what are you doing hanging out with this guy? What’s the relationship? We’re trying to beat these guys.’”
Durant wanted an offense that kept the ball moving and provided him easier scoring chances. The Thunder fired coach Scott Brooks and brought in Billy Donovan, and still the offense stalled out at key moments, often with Westbrook dribbling into oblivion. The Thunder led the NBA in blown fourth-quarter leads last season, according to Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK.com, despite their firepower. "Ultimately, he got frustrated and felt that they had plateaued," said a person with insight into Durant's thought process. "[Donovan] came in, and he still had the same issues that he had with Russ under Scotty. The offense didn't change much. He still had to take a ton of contested shots every game; and that's when he had the ball at all."
With Westbrook set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017, the long-term prospects for continuity did not appear great. “He’s gone after this year,” said one league executive. “A hundred percent. I think that’s the case no matter what (Durant had decided). I guess people can always change their mind, but I think this season was going to be it for him there no matter what.”
The club might also have had the idea that concerns in that area were a big part of why Durant was seriously thinking about leaving the Thunder in the first place. One person close to Durant and Russell Westbrook said their relationship is “kind of complicated.” Said another Western source, “Look, KD and Russ are friends. They get along great off the court. They’re good guys. But Kevin feels like no one can control Russell when he’s on the court — not even Russell. Everyone sees it. It’s no secret. I think that’s been hard on Kevin. Russ is one of the top players in the game, but things have to fit.”
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook arguing on the sidelines is the type of thing that will be nothing if the Thunder pull out the game, and something if they do not. Leading San Antonio 85-76 midway through the fourth quarter, OKC gave up two quick three-pointers to Danny Green, and the lead evaporated to three points. The Thunder called timeout, and the scene above happened.
“Hold up,” Durant said, placing his hand in front of Westbrook's mic. “(Cuban)'s a idiot. He's a idiot.” At Wednesday's practice, Westbrook was asked what it meant to him that Durant stuck up for him like that. “It's very important,” Westbrook said. “Me and Kevin's relationship is great. He's like my brother. We talk about different stuff, not just basketball related. He's always gonna have my back and I'll always have his.”
Any noise about personal issues between Durant and Westbrook is bunk, according to sources close to the situation. They get along great, though there has been minor tension about touches as Westbrook's role has ascended, those sources say. Durant can go to any team he wants; all 30 teams will move the earth to sign him.
But Durant's selection as Westbrook as his presenter highlighted an eight-year friendship between the two that sprouted through basketball but has extended so far beyond it. “We're like family,” Durant said in an interview with The Oklahoman earlier this week, detailing the evolution of his relationship with Westbrook.
“We don't like each other because he shot more?” Durant asked. “That don't make no sense. And it's really disrespectful to me or to us because you think I'm that selfish of a person? I don't like this guy because he shoots more than me? That's disrespectful to me. Because if I'm a friend, I'm genuine. I'm there. No matter what. Good days, bad days, more shots. I'm a real friend.”
Storyline: Durant-Westbrook Relationship
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He then expressed how the fans’ reactions not only to his on-court contributions but also his off-court work impacted his decision to remain in Indianapolis. “I think that means a lot because, yes, I am a basketball player,” he added. “But playing this game, you know, is my job. But, I’m also trying to help others, encourage others, and be a good example for how you live life, period. “So to hear people say that I’m good for the team on the floor but as well as off the floor is a big deal to me…Indiana is a very very dope place to play because you get love from everyone all around. I literally don’t feel like I’m playing in a city and like, ‘dang, people don’t like me.’ And I really feel the love from everyone. That’s, again, a big deal to me because I just want to be somewhere where people want me and appreciate me. And I think I found that.”
Orlando Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure to address continued swelling in his right knee, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman announced today. The procedure went as planned and will allow Aminu to complete his final phase of rehabilitation. Aminu’s return to the court will depend on how he responds to treatment and rehabilitation. He missed 55 games last season after originally suffering the injury on November 29, 2019 vs. Toronto. Aminu underwent surgery on January 7.
Storyline: Al-Farouq Aminu Injury
The sports nutrition company Ladder, which James started with Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as a host of other investors and athlete personalities, has been acquired by the digital fitness company Openfit to be the company’s official nutrition provider. Openfit announced the acquisition on Wednesday and LeBron James celebrated the news on social media on Wednesday morning as well. “After pushing my body to its limits season after season, I needed a different level of supplements that I could trust to complement my workouts and aid in the recovery process. With Ladder, we achieved that. We were able to work with experts to create an incredible line of certified, high caliber supplements for all athletes, but we always recognized that is just one part of the process,” said LeBron James, champion athlete and Ladder co-founder in a press release about the acqusition. “Now with the reach and resources of the Openfit platform, we’re excited about bringing this all together and creating a new level of training and nutrition that fits everyone’s individual needs.”
December 2, 2020 | 1:06 pm EST Update