In the days leading up to his return to Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant tried to diffuse the idea that he has a rift with Russell Westbrook. The two players were once viewed as best of friends during their time as teammates with the Thunder. In an ESPN interview, Durant called the supposed feud “fake drama” created by the media. He expanded on the idea to ESPN.
I was doing an interview with someone and I used the word ‘unselfish’ to describe my teammates here [with] the Warriors and someone asked Russell the question, asked if he heard what I said about being unselfish and he phrased the question as if I was saying that the Thunder and the organization and the team was selfish. And once I heard that, I was like, ‘They are trying to get in between this thing and make it bigger than what it is.’
Obviously Russell wasn’t going to hear that [full] interview I had about me just talking about my teammates I have now and someone in Oklahoma City phrased it to him as if I was calling them selfish. It’s that easy. It’s that easy for the media to twist something up and for the media, you know, [to] make a feud between us.
Just how close the two originally were may have been a bit exaggerated. Rolling Stone’s Paul Solotaroff called the two players “work friends” in a feature on Durant after his move west. The description came in part from Durant’s own words to Rolling Stone.
“We had our own cliques that we hung with on the road. Russell had his guys, I had mine. It was never a bad thing. Just how it was,” Durant told Rolling Stone.
While the idea of a feud may be overblown, there does appear to be tension between the two players. According to ESPN’s Royce Young, Westbrook found out Durant was going to sign with Golden State through a text message. Westbrook was hurt Durant did not call him to inform him of the decision.
According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the two have not spoken since Durant bolted for the Warriors. Durant declined to go into the specifics on the current state of their relationship.
“I talked about that already. I’m not talking about that right now. Anything about the game, I’ll talk to you. All that other stuff, I don’t have anything to say,” Durant told ESPN.
Westbrook told The New York Times the two are no longer on speaking terms but declined to go further into the rift.
Based on this video clip, Westbrook does not want anyone on the Thunder to speak to Durant. After the first Thunder-Warriors game, Westbrook could be heard telling a teammate not to talk to Durant but in a much more colorful way.
Westbrook had taken exception to Durant calling his Warriors teammates “selfless”.
“That’s cute. My job is to worry about what’s going on here. We’re gonna worry about all the selfish guys we’ve got over here, apparently. We gonna figure that out,” Westbrook told The Oklahoman.
The truth is no matter how Durant left the Thunder there was going to be disappointment. It is hard to know whether a simple phone call by Durant to Westbrook would have quelled the situation.
All indications are the two are no longer close. How long the rift will last is anyone’s guess, but given how close today’s NBA superstars are it seems unlikely the feud will go on forever.
Durant and Westbrook will be teammates once again during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. It remains to be seen whether they will clear the air in The Big Easy.