Westbrook-Durant drama sparks All-Star tensions
Once and future NBA teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played down the drama Friday of hard feelings over Durant leaving behind Oklahoma City and Westbrook to play for Golden State.
Players gathered in New Orleans for interviews to hype Sunday’s 66th NBA All-Star Game, in which ex-teammates Durant and Westbrook will be reunited on the Western Conference team as it faces the Eastern Conference elite.
Durant has not spoken to Westbrook in the seven months since he signed a free agent deal with the Warriors, the team that beat the Oklahoma City Thunder with Durant and Westbrook in last year’s Western Conference finals.
“I didn’t come here for there to be any drama or have a heart to heart with anyone,” Durant told ESPN of talking to Westbrook this weekend.
“It’s not even something I’m thinking about. If it happens it does. If it doesn’t it’s no big deal. I’m coming here to enjoy the weekend.”
For his part, Westbrook answered every question put to him about being in the same locker room again with Durant with only comments about “Fashion Week” and ignoring the issue altogether.
Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring with 31.1 points a game, ranks third in assists with 10.1 a game and stands 12th in rebounds with 10.5 per contest — putting him on pace to join Oscar Robinson as the only players to average a triple double for an entire NBA campaign.
Durant leads Golden State with 25.8 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, helping the Warriors to the NBA’s best record at the All-Star break at 47-9 while the Thunder rank seventh in the West at 32-25.
Asked if he and the Thunder had moved on from Durant’s departure, Westbrook replied, “What does it look like?”
– ‘Feels like we’re in a big soap opera’ –
Having to pull together the West talent is Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who will have Golden State players Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on the West roster.
Kerr could play all four stars from the NBA’s winningest team alongside the league scoring leader. But he has kept mum about if he will put Durant and Westbrook together on the floor or not since Westbrook is not among the starters.
“I’ve definitely considered it,” Kerr said. “The only thing you have to do as a coach in the All-Star Game is parcel out the minutes. That’s it. You don’t draw up any plays. So we’ve got to figure out the minutes and I have thought about it.”
Durant was booed when he and the Warriors made their first visit together to Oklahoma City earlier this month. Durant has averaged 37.7 points against his former club in three wins over the Thunder this season.
He is already tired of his soured relationship with Westbrook being the prime topic of All-Star weekend.
“Everybody loves drama, man. It feels like we’re in a big soap opera. A reality TV show,” Durant said.
Curry, the NBA Most Valuable Player the past two years after Durant won the award in 2014, is counting on everyone getting along once game time arrives.
“I just feel like we’ll all be able to be there and be All-Stars,” he said.
Green hoped he might be “an icebreaker” if the locker room gets tense.
“I don’t think you take any tension, if you will, or anything from the regular season into an All-Star locker room,” Green said.
Houston guard James Harden, a former Thunder teammate of Westbrook and Durant, won’t be looking to play peacemaker.
“I’m staying out of it,” he said.
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