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Golden State Warriors star forward Kevin Durant spoke in depth about his relationship with former teammate and Oklahoma City star guard Russell Westbrook in interviews with Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News and Sam Amick of USA Today.
“I love Russ,” Durant told Slater. “I don’t care what nobody say. I don’t care what he say or what the fans say. Like, this is a tough time right now in our relationship. But I love Russ. I love his family. They all know that.”
Durant also seemingly bristled at the notion that he and Westbrook weren’t close during their time in Oklahoma City, or that either he or Russell was taking shots at one another behind closed doors, per Slater:
All that stuff I hear is lies. All that stuff that I’m taking shots at the Thunder or Russell. It’s just there to try to separate us. They did it when we were playing together. They tried to separate us. So obviously they’re going to do it even more now. C’mon. I don’t have nothing against Russell. As I shouldn’t. And I don’t think he have nothing against me. I don’t think he’s taking shots at me. I don’t think he’s doing anything that everyone is putting out there.
In both interviews, Durant acknowledged that he only texted Westbrook when he made the decision to sign with the Warriors this season after nine years with the Thunder organization. He called that a mistake and said he and Westbrook will talk about that situation.
He also acknowledged that he and Westbrook haven’t spoken since his departure but wouldn’t go so far as to say there was a “beef” between the players.
“We have a miscommunication going on between a lot of people, a lot of assumptions—you can say that,” he told Amick. “But a beef? Nah, there ain’t no beef, man.”
Durant also told Amick that he had been following the Thunder’s season:
The stuff that I’ve been through with that team and that organization, that stuff doesn’t just go away. I said that in July when I made this decision. It don’t just go away, so I’ve got nothing but love for everybody there. Everybody. No matter how they feel about me, everybody on Oklahoma City, on that team, of course I watch them. I support them. I want them to do well.
That was in contrast to Westbrook, who denied watching Durant’s debut with the Thunder last week.
Obviously, the relationship between Durant and Westbrook takes on heightened intrigue this week, with the Warriors and Thunder set to play Thursday evening.
The pair will be forever tied together after being drafted in consecutive seasons (Durant in 2007, Westbrook in 2008) and leading the Thunder to six postseason appearances in the past seven years, a berth in the NBA Finals in 2011-12 and four total trips to the Western Conference Finals.
And Durant’s decision to sign with the Warriors came after a 2015-16 postseason in which the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the conference finals. For many Thunder fans, Durant’s departure represented an “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, fair or not.
Now NBA fans will be carefully watching Thursday night to view Durant and Westbrook facing one another for the first time in their careers. No matter their relationship off the court, the battle between them on the court will be fascinating to see.
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