The friendship between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may never again be as strong as it was when they were both on the Thunder, but it appears to have improved greatly since Durant stunned all of Oklahoma City, and his former all-star teammate in particular, by defecting to the rival Warriors in 2016. Durant took the latest step toward patching things up Saturday, when he took the blame for creating “a thing” between Wesbrook and himself.
Speaking at a media session ahead of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, for which he and Westbrook are teammates on a squad drafted by LeBron James, Durant told reporters, “I just got out of my own head, and got out of my own way, and stopped thinking it was even a thing.”
“I feel like I f—ed that up … oh, sorry,” Durant said, drawing laughter by catching himself in a profanity. “I feel like I just made it a thing when it shouldn’t have been,” he continued.
“It’s cool to kind of get past that, and just appreciate these guys for who they are and what they do. And it’s all love at the end of the day.”
When asked Saturday about his interactions with Durant at the all-star break, Westbrook played it cool, saying, “It’s been fine. It’s been normal. Communicating, and that’s about it, you know?”
“All the other stuff is kind of irrelevant,” Wesbrook continued. “Just keeping it cool, talking when we need to, and just moving forward.”
Durant and Westbrook, who were Thunder teammates for eight seasons and helped the franchise to an NBA Finals appearance in 2012, had given some cause to wonder about their relationship during a contentious game in November. After a play in which Westbrook slapped the ball away from Durant on a drive, the two began jawing at each other, drawing closer until their foreheads touched as the OKC crowd roared.
After that game, both players said their moment was no different than incidents that had occurred in many other games with other opponents. In their second on-court encounter this season, earlier this month, the most controversial moment between them came when Durant was whistled for fouling Westbrook on a drive when the latter slipped to the floor untouched.
The Thunder routed the Warriors in Oakland in that contest, but Durant’s move to the Warriors paid off last spring with his first NBA championship. Meanwhile, Westbrook won the league’s highest individual honor, the MVP award, so the season could be said to have been a great success for both, but watching Durant get a long-awaited ring in his first year with another team had to have been a bittersweet experience for the OKC guard.
During Game 1 of last year’s Finals, Westbrook appeared to make a point of showing on social media that he was more interested in watching “Sister Act 2″ than the showdown between Durant’s Warriors and James’s Cavaliers. Just before that game, Durant’s mother described the relationship between him and Westbrook as “off-kilter,” but she added, “I really believe they’re going to work it out.”
That may have happened as quickly as a month after the Finals, as Paul George, who had just been acquired by the Thunder, told reporters that Westbrook and Durant were “buddies” and were “back good again.” At the time, that represented quite a shift from the previous summer, when Westbrook was said to have been “hurt” by what he saw as a lack of a heads-up from Durant about the latter’s impending departure, followed by Durant saying that it would be “a touchy deal” to try to reach out to his former teammate.
On Saturday, though, Durant was not only happy to declare that he had “love” for Westbrook, he heaped praise on the explosive guard when asked about the greatest dunk he’d ever seen. “This 6-3 guy I used to play with a couple years ago, his athleticism was off the charts,” Durant replied.
“I used to see him do normal dunks every day and now when I see dunks it’s just not as good as his. So he’s an athletic guy, I think he plays in OKC.
“I threw him a lob one game and he was over top of the backboard,” Durant continued. “After that one, nobody else can compare.”
Read more from The Post: