Westbrook was criticizing for taking too many shots and not deferring to Durant enough (Durant defended Westbrook’s shot selection). Some people described the Durant-Westbrook relationship as one similar to the Kevin Garnett-Stephon Marbury relationship from the early-’90s Timberwolves — one that resulted in Marbury requesting a trade. What many outsiders who did not watch the Thunder play all season did not realize is that Westbrook is a score-first point guard who plays that way every game — and it generally works.
Kevin Durant knows that, and although he concedes that the players have had some competitive friction, he fully supports his point guard.
“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. “That’s going to happen. But I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn’t want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up.
“I enjoy playing with Russell so much. I hope he understands that, and I’m sure he does. I’m looking forward to next season already. The last thing I’ve been worrying about is what people say about Russ, and I’m sure that’s the last thing he’s worrying about as well.”
Westbrook is set to become a free agent next offseason, but Durant is confident the point guard will re-sign with Oklahoma City. He made it clear he wants Westbrook back.
“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”
Durant has done and said all the right things regarding his teammate. He supported him throughout the playoffs even though the media was trying to pull them apart. He also recognizes that Westbrook is a special talent who helps the Thunder win many games. They won’t be the same without him, but he has work to do.
Westbrook needs to become better at diagnosing situations. He needs to recognize when it’s time to penetrate, and when it’s time to defer. And by goodness Scott Brooks, you need to learn how to manage the relationship better, or at least design plays where Durant touches the ball first sometimes.
Lastly, keep in mind that a big reason why Westbrook looked so selfish in the playoffs is because the Mavericks’ defense was stellar. The Thunder had few options offensively, and Durant was well guarded, so Westbrook was left to throw up a lot of ugly shots. Somebody was going to end up forcing shots — it just ended up being Russell — and he looks badly for it. Of course his composure on the court didn’t help his reputation, so he obviously has a lot of improving to do.
We know how Durant feels about Westbrook. Now the question is whether Russell feels the same way about the Thunder.
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