Russell Westbrook has watched his close friend James Harden ascend from Sixth Man of the Year to legitimate league MVP candidate in the three years since his trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets, but the newly minted All-Star Game MVP doesn't sound especially eager to follow in his former teammate's footsteps and strike out on his own.
During a visit to the "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday, Westbrook made clear that he prefers his experience of pairing with reigning MVP Kevin Durant to the prospect of breaking off to run his own squad.
"No, not at all, man," Westbrook told Patrick. "I love winning. Kevin's one of the best players in the world, man, and I love my position I'm in now.
"I think over the past four or five years, only maybe two teams have won more games than us — San Antonio and probably Miami," he continued. (He's right on there — the San Antonio Spurs lead the way with 231 wins over the past four regular seasons, followed by the Miami Heat with 224 and the Thunder with 221.) "So, I mean, I don't think it gets too much better than that. I mean, you can be on your own and win a few games and then go home in the summer, but I'd rather win games and have a chance to win a championship every year."
Patrick also asked Westbrook about his relationship with Durant, which has been painted at times as contentious over the years by some media members seemingly displeased that Westbrook, one of the most explosive scorers in the world, has taken what they deemed a disproportionate amount of shots that should have been ceded to Durant, the most explosive scorer in the world.
"Do I think [media members] invented or inflated those issues? I'm not sure," Westbrook said. "But I know myself and Kevin always, always became closer and closer, regardless of what stories or what was made up about us. We've constantly became closer and closer, like brothers, and got through everything that was thrown our way, whether it was true or not true or things that were made up."
Westbrook struck a similar note during a recent interview with Graham Bensinger that will premiere this coming weekend, a wide-ranging discussion that touches on, among other things, the relationship between the two young All-Stars:
"Oh, man, [Durant is] probably one of the nicest and the most unselfish guys I've met," Westbrook said. "He's always a guy willing to give up anything he has to help myself or help his teammates out, and he's obviously one of the best players in the world. But I think as a person, that's what really makes him likable and makes me like him even more.
"We're like brothers," he added. "We've been with each other for a long time now, and we're at an age now where he can tell me something and I can take it on the chin and move on, and I can scream at him and he can scream back, and go back and forth. But always, at the end of the day, we come back to an agreement and find a solution. I think that just brings us closer and closer as teammates, on and off the floor."
While Westbrook's near-term future seems set in stone — he has two years and $34.5 million left after this season on the five-year, $78.6 million maximum contract extension he received in January 2012 — Durant's, as you might have heard, is a bit less so, as he can reach unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2016, where he's sure to have plenty of suitors.
Whether Durant will ultimately share Westbrook's feelings about going it alone or remaining a dynamic duo remains to be seen. But it must be heartening for Thunder fans, at least, for Westbrook to sound so committed to remaining a part of a winning formula rather than pursuing increased individual glory.
Hat-tip to Royce Young at Daily Thunder.
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