When Kevin Durant became a free agent this offseason, many felt it would be impossible for him to walk away from a superstar in his prime like Russell Westbrook, on team so close to championship contention.
However, Durant ultimately decided to join the Golden State Warriors, breaking up one of the NBA’s great duos in the process.
While Durant has acknowledged the decision to leave Westbrook and the Thunder, Westbrook has largely stayed quiet. Outside of a fan video where he mockingly laughed when asked about Durant, Westbrook hasn’t even mentioned his former All-Star teammate.
However, after signing a three-year, $86 million extension with the Thunder on Thursday, Westbrook held a press conference, and of course, fielded questions about Durant. Surprisingly, Westbrook’s version of the tale paints a much colder-than-expected breakup of two players who had the potential to form a dynasty together.
When asked how he found out about Durant leaving, Westbrook said, “Like y’all found out, on the news, on the cell phones, 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.”
Another interesting, but funny moment occurred when Westbrook was asked if Durant’s departure stung more because he joined the Warriors (who beat the Thunder in the playoffs). Westbrook responded, coyly, “Sting for who?”
He then continued, “Listen, I understand free agency. I understand having the opportunity to go where we need to go. But once that happened, I told [GM] Sam [Presti], ‘What’s next?’ To me, that’s just my mentality: what’s the next thing we need to do to help our team win?”
That doesn’t sound like a player overly concerned with a former teammate’s departure.
Interestingly, the two haven’t spoken. Westbrook did note that he and Durant’s eight years together can’t be thrown away, saying, “we definitely will talk eventually. But obviously now we haven’t.”
Meanwhile, Durant said from Rio that he’s happy for Westbrook that he signed his extension and that he doesn’t have any hard feelings for him. However, Durant also sounded cautious about reaching out to Westbrook.
“That’s a touchy deal. I don’t know. It’s easy for someone else to tell me what I should do, but you guys don’t know how that whole thing [went down]. I don’t know, man. I’ll see after this is over and once everything dies down. Like I said before, at some point we’ll sit down and talk. But I don’t know when.”
It doesn’t sound like a broken relationship by any means, and, interestingly, Durant can be a free agent next summer or in 2018, leaving his future open.
In the meantime, Westbrook doesn’t seem too torn up by Durant’s decision, and Durant truly didn’t seem to give Westbrook much of a heads-up that he was leaving the Thunder.
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