NEW ORLEANS — Some 45 mins before showtime, 11 Western Conference All-Stars warmed adult on one finish of a floor, while Russell Westbrook stood alone on a other side, sharpened giveaway throws.
Westbrook has always despised crowds, deliberately station in place to wait for media to pierce out of a approach in scrums, or going out of his approach to equivocate any overload with fans. He always shoots on his possess basket — a same one, by himself — after practices and shootarounds during a Oklahoma City Thunder’s use facility.
But with so many concentration and courtesy on how Westbrook interacted with Kevin Durant as they reunited as teammates Sunday, it was a distinguished image. Eventually, a conflicting former teammate, James Harden, assimilated Westbrook, and a two, who have spent many of a weekend together, warmed up, laughing, joking and gesturing throughout.
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The pregame theatre was usually another in a weekend full of them showcasing a tragedy between Westbrook and Durant. At a Saturday “practice” — lax quotes during that — as a Western All-Stars were announced, they collected during midcourt, any actor using by a line dapping any other up. Durant was a second actor out, behind Stephen Curry, and as Westbrook had his name called a few players after, Durant was sitting behind on a list by himself as Westbrook ran out. The feeling in a use locker room was described as “painfully still and uncomfortable.” In a successive mixed-zone media availability, Durant walked by Westbrook as a dual seemed to aria so as not to make eye contact.
It all set adult a diversion itself, where questions of either Westbrook would even pass to Durant were legitimate. As Westbrook finished his approach to check in about mid by a opening quarter, a building buzzed. It took usually about a notation before Westbrook gave Durant a eyes.
Durant finished a cut conflicting a lane, Westbrook dismissed a pass his way, cut behind it and Durant lobbed it adult for a Westbrook dunk. “He was open, so we threw him a lob,” Durant told sideline contributor David Aldridge during a half. A timeout was called shortly after, and as a dual finished their approach to a bench, led by DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green, a ridicule hearten pennyless out. Someone threw H2O on Durant. It was clear: The ice seemed to have been broken. The awkwardness was genuine and felt by everybody around All-Star Weekend, nobody some-more so than a players.
It was differing to watch Westbrook and Durant actively equivocate any other, since it was a distant cry from a approach it used to be during All-Star Weekend. They’ve spent 5 together as teammates — both for a Western Conference and a Thunder — and while a weekend’s record kept them detached for vast amounts as they tended to sponsorship appearances and gift events, when they had a eventuality to, they were together.
Durant and Westbrook finished it a indicate to float a same train to any eventuality they were both going to, always sitting subsequent to any other. They would go out of a approach to make certain they rode together to Sunday’s large game, with Durant pushing 25 mins in Toronto trade to accommodate adult with Westbrook during a Jordan Brand hotel final year. That happened in New York a year before, and in Houston in 2013 (Westbrook missed 2014 due to injury), they met in a middle.
They took cinema together in a locker room, like they did with Kobe Bryant final year during his final All-Star Game, a print both cherished. They would dance with any other before, during and after a game. Their lockers were always side by side, usually like in Oklahoma City. This year, special requests were finished to make certain their lockers were apart. The joining accommodated, fixation their lockers on conflicting sides.
At Friday’s availability, Westbrook and Durant’s tables were positioned directly conflicting a room from any other. But before he went to his table, Durant assimilated SportsCenter for an pronounce on a theatre with Sage Steele, Westbrook’s chair usually a few feet to his left. When Durant finished, he stepped off a theatre and Steele remarkable that Westbrook should be right there. Durant looked over a collected media scrum to see if Westbrook was there yet. Westbrook wasn’t, some 30 mins late for his availability.
Eventually Westbrook showed adult and fast a questions were forked in a instruction of Durant. Westbrook’s plan became apparent rather quickly, flipping any doubt into something about fashion. It wasn’t unpleasant or rude, as Westbrook’s media interactions infrequently can be, yet instead disarming and lighthearted. Westbrook was clearly perplexing to make it a indicate that he’s finished articulate about it. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne attempted to press him, and eventually Westbrook cracked, arrange of.
“I don’t know what y’all’s problem,” Westbrook pronounced of since people are so fixated on it. Asked if he or a group has altered on, he said, “What it demeanour like?”
“I don’t know what y’all need, yet I’m in a good place. I’m happy, I’m carrying fun, I’m carrying a good time,” he said. “I’m happy with my group we have now and looking brazen to relocating forward.”
The messaging from both sides is this is some-more of a media mania than an tangible feud. They’re right in this sense: There’s no tangible hate per se; there’s usually no longer a relationship. And deliberation a 8 seasons they spent together, a ups, a downs, a things they said, a things they did, beef or no beef, there’s too many story to ignore. Durant called Westbrook his favorite teammate ever during a ESPYS in 2014. Durant comparison Westbrook to install him into a Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2015. Westbrook and Durant both regularly referred to a other as a “brother.” The list goes on. And on.
“There’s times we damn any other out, yet that’s a partial of being brothers,” Durant told The Oklahoman in 2015. “Because we know if we need something, he’ll be there, and if we need to pronounce to someone outward of basketball, he’ll be there. It’s a genuine society form relationship. We’re like family.”
Some have seen a Durant-Westbrook dissection and indirect fallout as validation they were never indeed that close. Besides, Durant called them “work friends” in a Rolling Stone form behind in October. In reality, a stream tragedy is justification a attribute had genuine depth, and meaning. There was constant mutual indebtedness between a two, and an measureless volume of respect.
They had their severe patches, though, like in 2010 as a “can they coexist” account was being born, Durant told friends he wanted to accommodate with Presti to pronounce about his destiny personification with Westbrook. (Durant altered his mind; a assembly never happened.) Or in 2014 when Durant was building an considerable MVP box with Westbrook sidelined following knee medicine — a “Slim Reaper era,” if we recall. Westbrook returned, and underneath a mins restriction, didn’t play good as a Thunder mislaid 3 straight, including a degrading 22-point home detriment to LeBron James and a Miami Heat. Durant, who desperately wanted to win MVP, generally over LeBron, disturbed his endowment was slipping. He was agitated, plainly wondering if Westbrook was removing in a way. He got over it, a Thunder started winning again, and Durant won MVP, saving Westbrook for final in his barbarous speech.
“I could pronounce all night about Russell,” Durant said. “An romantic male that would run by a wall for me. we don’t take it for granted. … we adore you, man. we adore you.”
Their attribute has always been about ups and downs. The throw brought them behind together, if usually for a brief moment, and while a players on a dais celebrated, Durant and Westbrook stood on conflicting sides of a huddle. They didn’t correlate outward of a integrate low-fives when one would underling out. During timeouts Durant would mount on one side with Green, Westbrook on a other side with Harden.
They played a sum of 82 seconds together.
A lot of people kept seeking a doubt via a weekend: What, exactly, is a large problem here?
There are a lot of layers to that answer.
The initial is apparently a common story and a things said, yet rewind to a cooking in Los Angeles during BOA Steakhouse a week before Durant’s giveaway group in that Westbrook sat with Durant, along with Nick Collison and Royal Ivey. He was open and candid, things that don’t come easy to him, seeking what he could do differently, how he could change, what he would need to do for Durant to stay.
Durant didn’t usually leave, yet he left for that team, a one that had usually separated a Thunder by overcoming a 3-1 necessity in a Western Conference finals. The one with Westbrook’s antithesis, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green who karate kicked Steven Adams twice in a groin. Like so many within a Thunder organization, there was confusion.
Then there’s a fact that by leaving, Durant also stole Westbrook’s shot, during slightest for a foreseeable future. The Thunder are no longer pretension contenders. Westbrook is spooky with winning a championship — on his terms, of march — and Durant took that from him.
The pointed media jabs from Durant’s stay didn’t go unnoticed, such as blaming Westbrook’s character of play for not meshing, or not carrying adequate fun. There hasn’t been a singular rebellious trickle from Westbrook or his people, yet there was a cupcakes Instagram post and a photographer’s outfit ragged to a initial matchup. Like all else in this situation, it’s not wholly one-sided.
Time heals all wounds, yet a wound is still uninformed and was reopened usually dual weeks ago in OKC. Durant claimed he competence pronounce to Westbrook over a weekend if it happened “organically,” and Westbrook has never pronounced he was against to it, observant when he sealed his prolongation that “eventually” they’ll talk. There’s too many equity there to trust it won’t ever happen. How and since are a bigger questions. Maybe it’s during USA Basketball, where Gregg Popovich will take over — a chairman both players immensely honour — and a close-quarters group sourroundings that can’t support tension. Maybe this weekend helped unfreeze a ice some.
The “how” from Westbrook’s outlook was epitomised a morning of Durant’s lapse diversion to Oklahoma City. Asked about a destiny reconciliation, he said, “It’s not unequivocally adult to me, honestly.” It’s that simple. Westbrook is a one that got dumped. He got left. He’s a one who got usually a brief content shortly after Durant’s preference was announced on The Players’ Tribune. He’s a fiercely constant person, gripping his round of trust tiny and tight. He has spent his weekend unbothered, unresolved and chatting with a series of players — Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, among others — since he sees himself as a bystander.
Some in Durant’s round have attempted to mediate, such as during Mahogany where someone went to Westbrook’s private room to let him know Durant was there. (They didn’t talk.) If a attribute is ever going to be restored, Durant is going to have to be a one to privately extend a olive branch, since he’s a one that pennyless it in a initial place.
At least, that’s how Westbrook sees it. And Durant doesn’t seem prepared to do that.