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.
"I just told him, I let him know how I felt." Durant said in an interview with Sina. "And you obviously, our relationship probably won't ever be the same again, but it's something I wanted to do and I expressed that to him. Hopefully, he respected it."
Diamond Leung: KD on Westbrook: "Obv our relationship probably won't ever be the same again, but it's something I wanted to do." sports.sina.com.cn/basketball/nba…
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.
It can be overwhelming. Not many can relate. But for Durant, Westbrook was one of the few that could. Durant said he'd call Westbrook or Kendrick Perkins — a trio that is still in an active three-way group text to this day — and just vent. “I was vulnerable to him,” Durant said. “It was like, yeah, this is someone I can lean on. It showed me a different side of him. Since then, we've been really tight.”
“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.”
September 19, 2021 | 7:06 am EDT Update
Clutch Points: Isaiah Thomas is expected to work out with the Golden State Warriors on Monday, sources tell @markhaynesnba. pic.twitter.com/aXdiqpdJcl
Lakers legend Pau Gasol, Marc’s older brother, recently sat down with Spanish newspaper Marca as he discussed the future of his sibling. Pau’s response was cryptic, but it is clear that he is hoping that Marc returns to Spain: “Marc has earned the freedom and flexibility to make his own decision and he will do so when he decides,” Pau said (h/t Sam Yip of Fan Nation). “I know he has a lot of enthusiasm for Basquet Girona, a club in which I am also involved as vice president. He is in a different situation, because he is five years younger than me. We will see what he decides to do this season and later, I am also waiting.”
“I’ve been on him about things I need from him,” Billups said. “I said, ‘Nurk, I know you are going to be a free agent, and I understand you have to have a great year. You need me for you to have a great year, and I need you for us to have a good year. We need each other, right?’ “I’m going to give him every opportunity to have a great year. Because if he has a great year, that means we are a pretty damn good team. Because he is a good player. But that means he has to be focused and be in shape. Because you are only going to play as many minutes as you are physically able. If you are out there tired, uh-uh, come on, gotta get you out. There are good players behind you.”
It is unclear exactly what Nurkic and his role will look like under Billups, but to hear Nurkic talk, Billups has given him a vision of being more involved on both ends. Billups has been careful not to publicly define roles, but in general, he has preached that the offense will include more ball movement. “I just want to feel wanted, and I think I just need more support, and what I mean by that is different playing style, more inside-out game, more chance,” Nurkic said. “More chance to be successful and the position where they put you in. It’s all about the coach and where they put you, and I think Chauncey has figured out that certain people are going to have one to three points less, but the team is going to be way more successful with ball movement and playing together and be more fun. Even at the defensive end.”
Virtus Bologna’s win over LBA newcomer Tortona in SuperCup Quarterfinal game yesterday night was overshadowed by a serious injury occurred to Nigerian center Ekpe Udoh, who appears to have injured his patellar tendon in a no-contact situation. Former Fenerbahce center was taken out of the court in a stretcher and after the game coach Sergio Scariolo confirmed the seriousness of the injury, adding that the team will look for a replacement in the market: “He’s our cornerstone, both on attack and on defense. It’s dramatic, I hope that it serves to understand that you need to respect the players. Here there are stickers on the court everywhere, in the NBA it’s not the case. We will look for a replacement”.
“We are in shock and worried,” Scariolo said after the game on Udoh’s injury. The Italian coach spoke against the use of slippery stickers on basketball floors which have often caused players to hurt themselves.
However, if you ask former Suns forward Matt Barnes, the Suns aren’t favored to make it back to the Finals. In an episode of “The Jump”, Barnes had this to say. (via Fadeaway World, NBA on ESPN YouTube): “Love CP! Love Book! Experience is the best teacher and they have that now. But if the West is healthy, it’s going to be loaded, and it’s going to be tough [for the Suns] to get out. I wouldn’t bet on them, with all due respect. Like I said, great young team, one of the best floor generals we’ve ever seen in the history of this game. But again, a lot of things lined up perfect for them to do what they did last year.”