Kevin Durant: I never told Russell Westbrook I'm staying in OKC

Shams Charania of The Vertical
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4244/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Durant">Kevin Durant</a>, right, says he never told <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4390/" data-ylk="slk:Russell Westbrook">Russell Westbrook</a> he was staying in Oklahoma City. (AP)
Kevin Durant, right, says he never told Russell Westbrook he was staying in Oklahoma City. (AP)

CHICAGO — Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant refuted a report that he told his ex-Oklahoma City teammates – including Russell Westbrook – that he planned to re-sign with the Thunder.
“It’s false,” Durant told The Vertical on Thursday. “I didn’t say that – words about me telling Russell or Nick that I would stay or leave never came out of my mouth. We met as teammates, but no promises came out of it. In this day and age, I can’t control anything people claim out there. Someone can go out and say something random right now, and people will believe it.

“I never told Russell or Nick [Collison], ‘All right, guys, I’m coming back to the Thunder’ – and then a week later, I decide not to. Never happened. I don’t operate like that. I heard people say that story, but it’s not the truth.”

In a quiet corner before USA Basketball’s practice at the United Center, Durant admitted he has heard – and refutes – the perception that he turned his back on Westbrook and his former Thunder teammates. “There were never promises given in a meeting before July,” he told The Vertical. “I went through the process.”

He held meetings with six teams – the Warriors, Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat – and committed to a two-year maximum contract with Golden State. Since joining the Warriors, Durant and several teammates, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, have fielded questions about acclimating the one-time NBA MVP to the starting lineup.

The Warriors’ projected starting five includes Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Zaza Pachulia – a seamless transition in Durant’s mind.

“I’m not coming into a team where a guy is playing my position and we have try to fit in two guys playing the same position,” Durant told The Vertical. “I’m not coming in trying to play the point guard, trying to play the shooting guard. I’m a small forward. The team didn’t have a small forward when I signed. Steph, Klay, Draymond, the bigs, we all play different positions.

“Whether it’s minutes, shots, opportunities, any good team will have players sacrificing. That’s the nature of the game. I’m not coming into a game saying that I need my 18 shots and I need to get to the line 12 times. I let the game flow naturally.”

Durant will enter his 10th NBA season in 2016-17, and made the decision to help lead Team USA in the Rio Olympics this summer.

“Being able to represent the U.S., I know how much it means,” Durant said. “To represent your country, we have people who do it different ways. For us players, this is our way to show how much we appreciate our country and what it means to grow up on American soil. We’re a part of representing the U.S. on a global level.

“All of the guys are anxious to get to Rio. Every day, it’s, ‘How’s Rio?’ ‘How’s the Olympic experience?’ I haven’t been to Rio but I know the Olympic experience is on another level. It’s fun just to know you’re one of the athletes competing for your country, once every four years.”

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