It seems every day somebody still weighs in on Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors this past summer. If it feels like just yesterday L.A. Clippers veteran Paul Pierce told SiriusXM NBA Radio, “I just feel like when you’re that close as a competitor, you don’t go join the team that just pushed you out,” it’s because it was. This isn’t going away.
So, you can imagine what it must be like for Russell Westbrook, who is consistently subjected to the telephone game of second-hand accounts retelling his former Thunder teammate’s latest remarks.
Most recently, during a question-and-answer session at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Durant explained what he described as an “easy choice” to join the Warriors, via The Mercury News:
“It felt like it was a perfect fit. It was something I was searching for when I sat down and talked to these guys. 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. I feel really grateful to play for a team like that and play with a bunch of players who are selfless and enjoy the game in its purest form. They make it about the players, they make it about the environment, so it was really an easy choice.”
While Durant didn’t mention Oklahoma City once in that explanation, it’s not difficult to see how someone might interpret that “selfless” bit as a subtle dig at the Thunder. So, being a solid reporter, The Oklahoman’s Erik Horne relayed it verbatim to Westbrook and asked the All-Star for comment.
Russell Westbrook asked about Durant's recent comments about the Warriors having "selfless" players: pic.twitter.com/mdPOCOiZS5
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) October 13, 2016
Russell’s response, via ESPN.com writer Royce Young’s Twitter account: “That’s cute, man. That’s cute.”
“But my job is to worry about what’s going on here,” Westbrook elaborated on Thursday. “We’re going to worry about all the selfish guys we have over here, apparently, so we’re going to figure that out.”
[Follow Dunks Don’t Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Now, that’s a soundbite folks will eat up. But if we ever want to end this “he said, she said” cycle with Durant and Westbrook, we have to ask ourselves whether each time Durant praises Golden State it’s not actually an admonishment of Oklahoma City. To their credit, the Thunder media did just that.
Is it hard, Russ, not to take everything that he says and feel like it’s a shot at you guys?
“I don’t care. To me, it doesn’t matter. My job is to worry about here. Honestly, I’m really talking about it, so any time anybody asks me another question, I’m just not going to answer, just FYI, so I’m not talking about it no more.”
Of course, Westbrook has laughed at answering questions about his feelings toward Durant before.
Then, Westbrook seemingly proceeded to add fuel to the fire of reports he was furious about how Durant handled his departure from OKC, telling reporters after signing an $85 million extension in August, “(I found out) like y’all found out. On the news, on the cellphones, the social media. I talked to Kevin early on in the process. But nothing after. Just a text message from him, that’s about it.”
And there was this Nike ad campaign starring Westbrook that came out a few weeks later.
“Some run, some make runways.” Again, we’re interpreting here, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out how Durant might fit into that metaphor. It wasn’t until mid-September that Westbrook conceded of his relationship with a player he called his teammate for eight years, “We’re still cool.”
Now, we’re getting into the no-fly zone that is reporters wanting athletes to be more candid, until the media doesn’t like what the players have to say, but Westbrook could avoid falling prey to this news cycle by sticking with his “I’m not going to answer” stance instead of saying stuff like “That’s cute.”
Yet, we love “That’s cute, man,” because it allows us to hype the hell out of this perceived feud up until and even after the Thunder first visit the Warriors in the second week of the regular season. So, just wait for Durant to counter Westbrook’s comments before we ask Westbrook about Durant again.
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