Durant gives Westbrook vote of confidence
For all the talk about Kevin Durant(notes) and Russell Westbrook(notes) not getting along, at times, during the playoffs last season, Durant denies there’s a rift between the Oklahoma City Thunder’s two stars. And he wants to make sure Westbrook stays in OKC.
“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said in a phone interview with Yahoo! Sports on Saturday while on the movie set of his upcoming Warner Bros. film, “Switch.” “That’s going to happen. But I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn’t want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up.
“I enjoy playing with Russell so much. I hope he understands that, and I’m sure he does. I’m looking forward to next season already. The last thing I’ve been worrying about is what people say about Russ, and I’m sure that’s the last thing he’s worrying about as well.”
Westbrook averaged 20.2 shots per game in the playoffs, up from 17 in the regular season, which earned him some criticism. Westbrook didn’t see it as a problem. He also argued with coach Scott Brooks and Durant in separate playoff games. And when the Thunder were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, Westbrook shouldered much of the blame.
Westbrook told Yahoo! Sports in July that he and Durant still have a strong relationship and that he’s looking forward to his future with the Thunder. Westbrook will make $5 million next season and is eligible for a contract extension once the lockout is over. If an extension isn’t agreed upon he will become a free agent next offseason.
Durant said he is “confident” that Westbrook will stay with the Thunder.
“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”
In any normal season, the Thunder would already be in Oklahoma City working out in advance of training camp. But with the lockout wiping out at least the first two weeks of the preseason, Thunder players have organized their own workouts. Most of the players, including Durant and Westbrook, recently gathered in Austin, Texas, to do conditioning work and scrimmage. Durant said center Nazr Mohammad also has set up another workout in Lexington, Ky., for next week.
“We are starting to rebuild that chemistry over and over again and add on to what we had before,” Durant said. ” … We want to keep the same routine we’ve been doing for the last few years. I think we have a lot of veteran guys who know what it takes, especially with those guys who know about the [1998-99] lockout. I think that’s going to help us out.”
“I’m trying to be as positive as possible,” Durant said. “A lot of people have been asking me why can’t I help bring this lockout to an end. I tell them that I wish it was that easy. Hopefully, it gets resolved.”
Durant’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, said he has begun to pursue possible overseas contracts for Durant. He’s spoken with teams in Turkey, Russia, Italy and Spain.
“I’m definitely moving toward getting a deal consummated with one of these teams now that preseason is canceled,” Goodwin said.
Durant has so far remained patient. “If [the lockout] goes past the middle of October or November, I think I will have to make a decision,” he said. “But for right now, I’m going to stay put where I am and keep working out.”
In the meantime, Durant also has been filming “Switch,” which has him exchange his basketball skills with an enthusiastic young fan. While the kid becomes a high school star, Durant and the Thunder become helpless after losing his All-Star talent.
“It was something different for me,” Durant said. “But it was a good opportunity extended to me so I had to take it. It’s something out of the box for me, but I’m having a lot of fun.
“I got a lot to learn. Acting is difficult … It’s a lot of repetition. But I’m a quick learner and I got an acting coach on set. Everything has been going smooth.”