Kevin Durant’s move from the Thunder to the Warriors may have gotten him Finals MVP honors and a long-awaited championship ring, but it cost him a long-standing friendship with Russell Westbrook. At least, it did for a while, but following some indications that their relationship was improving, there was recent confirmation that the former all-star teammates are “buddies” again.
That news came from none other than Westbrook’s new all-star teammate, Paul George. The former Pacer, traded two weeks ago to Oklahoma City, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via The Oklahoman), “Whatever went between (Durant) and Russ, that’s their business. It’s not my point to want to know or want to figure out what happened. It’s pointless.
“They are buddies, they are back good again. I’m here to build something different and something special.”
At first, Westbrook had reportedly been “angry and hurt” that Durant not only left their eight-year partnership in OKC for Golden State, but that the 2014 NBA MVP didn’t even call to inform Westbrook directly of his decision. In the weeks that followed, Durant said their “relationship probably won’t ever be the same again” and described it as “a touchy deal.”
In October, after being told that Durant had praised his new teammates as “together” and “selfless,” Westbrook said, “That’s cute. … We’re going to worry about all of the selfish guys we got over here, apparently.” Westbrook reportedly didn’t speak in person with Durant until a terse exchange during a Warriors-Thunder game in January, in the teams’ second meeting of the season.
In a way, though, Durant’s departure worked out well for both players, as Westbrook’s record-breaking usage rate helped him set a single-season record for triple-doubles and earn his first NBA MVP award. In May, Kendrick Perkins, who played with both in OKC, said that the night Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old mark, he spoke with Durant about reopening lines of communication.
Perkins said he was trying to “figure out a way to try to make them talk again, because I felt like the outside world was putting a beef there that really wasn’t too serious.” Apparently it worked, because the veteran center said that the next day, Durant “sent me a text and was like, ‘Me and Russ had a nice conversation.’”
On Wednesday, Peyton Manning referred to the NBA stars’ breakup while hosting the ESPY awards, and as ABC’s cameras showed each player, observers were left to wonder what Westbrook was thinking about Durant. It’s nice to know they’re friends again, but it wouldn’t be a total shock if the Thunder guard was also thinking about George and hoping his new buddy could help him stick it to the Warriors.