‘There’s no beef’ between Durant, Westbrook ahead of playoff clash
Apr 13, 2023, 2:48 PM
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
On July 4, 2016, Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with the Golden State Warriors in The Players’ Tribune, leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook behind for the foreseeable future.
There was a misspoken third-hand account of Durant telling Westbrook he was staying in OKC and Westbrook being angry at Durant for leaving, but it ended up being a misunderstood narrative.
Durant and Westbrook have played against each other 11 times since they parted ways, and they’ve played for a combined seven different teams since they split seven years ago.
Now, the duo faces off in the playoffs for the first time, with the No. 4 seed Phoenix Suns tipping off against the No. 5 seed Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
“It’ll be normal for me. I think people still think there’s some beef or something,” Westbrook told reporters on Wednesday. “There’s no beef. I got nothing but respect for him and things he’s done with his career.
“Happy to see him back from injury. There’s no beef at all but he knows I’m going to compete and I know he’s going to compete and that’s all it is.”
During the Suns’ shootaround on Wednesday, Durant gave his take on it going into the series.
“I think Russ is competitive against any player he plays against,” Durant said. “I don’t think it was just specific to me. I think a lot of the fans and the people that were watching, it was high intensity for them. It was entertaining for them.
“So for us players, it’s just another game and regularly scheduled programming and Russ is that way. I played with him for so long and watched him for so long and he was that way against everybody so I don’t expect it to be different.”
That is in the present, but just in case you want some background on the past, here is a nice little timeline.
A few weeks after Durant officially signed with the Warriors, he told The Vertical that he didn’t tell Westbrook he was staying.
“It’s false. I didn’t say that — words about me telling Russell or Nick (Collison) that I would stay or leave never came out of my mouth,” Durant said. “We met as teammates, but no promises came out of it.
“In this day and age, I can’t control anything people claim out there. Someone can go out and say something random right now, and people will believe it.”
Fast-forward to Feb. 11, 2017: Durant and Westbrook would face each other for the first time.
“Things happen in life, man. As a man you’ve got to move forward,” Westbrook said. “I’ve got a great group of guys here that I love like my brothers. There are many teammates that I had here before that left me that are my brothers, that I talk to, that I don’t talk to. Not just Kevin.”
When asked about rekindling their relationship?
“I’m not sure, it’s not really up to me, honestly,” he said.
During the game, Westbrook stripped the ball from Durant, and some talk between the two escalated to them going forehead to forehead.
Eight days later in the NBA All-Star Game, Durant threw a lob to Westbrook, making the crowd go nuts.
Three years later, Durant joined a podcast and gave some reasoning behind his decision to leave the Thunder. Westbrook wasn’t mentioned in the statement, but one could easily draw the conclusion that Westbrook.
“In OKC, I played with a lot of athletes. I didn’t play with a lot of skill guys, not like shooters [and] ball-handlers,” Durant said while appearing on the All the Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson in 2020.
“So after a while, my game started to grow and I was like, ‘I need a change.’ This was before the (2015-16) season even started. I was tired of being the only guy who could make threes, make jump shots and consistently make them.”
During the 2020-21 season, with Durant on the Nets and Westbrook on the Wizards, the two shared a nice postgame moment that indicated a level of respect and friendship from one another.
Now that they are meeting in the playoffs for the first time, a new chapter to the saga is about to begin.