Russ and KD: Another weekend, another subplot awaits
The next time Russell Westbrook walks into a locker room to get dressed for a game, Kevin Durant will be there and donning the same uniform.
Get ready for perhaps the best subplot of All-Star Weekend.
Russ and KD, together again.
The former Oklahoma City teammates are going to be Western Conference teammates on Sunday night when the league holds its annual All-Star Game in New Orleans. And after the Thunder went into the break by beating the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, the inevitable question was posed to Westbrook: Are you ready for this?
”I’m excited about All-Star weekend,” said Westbrook, the two-time reigning All-Star MVP. ”I think in general, just being able to be there and enjoy the opportunity … humbled by the opportunity to be there.”
So the question was sidestepped.
It’ll get asked to both Westbrook and Durant again – likely many, many times – over the coming days.
They’ve been on the same court together three times this season, Durant and his new Golden State Warriors teammates beating Westbrook and the Thunder all three times – most recently last weekend in Oklahoma City, when Durant and Westbrook went 1-on-1 at times and even jawed at each other a bit during the game.
This will be different.
Probably awkward, too.
”I don’t know,” Westbrook said. ”We’re going to find out.”
It was the breakup that shook the NBA last summer: Durant left Oklahoma City as a free agent and chose to sign with Golden State, a team that won the NBA title in 2015, went to The Finals again last season and has the league’s best record this season. The Warriors already were a superteam, and then they landed another superstar.
Durant insists he tries to ignore anyone who criticized his decision.
”I define my career, at the end of the day,” Durant said. ”And it’s pretty damn good so far.”
Durant and Westbrook had great seasons with the Thunder, even getting to the 2012 NBA Finals where they lost to Miami in five games, but never were able to hoist a championship banner together.
So Durant moved on, and their relationship – whatever it was – essentially ended.
”He plays for his team. I play for my team,” Westbrook said. ”Let him do his thing. I do my thing. And that’s it, plain and simple.”
What might make this even more daunting for Westbrook is that Durant is coming with his newest friends. Golden State has four All-Stars in Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, not to mention West coach Steve Kerr. Durant and Curry will start; Thompson and Green are reserves, like Westbrook.
The Thunder and the Warriors have both completed their pre-All-Star Game schedules, so that means the first interactions between Durant and Westbrook in New Orleans might come as early as Thursday. All-Stars all get rooms at the same hotel, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re at risk for an awkward elevator ride together. It’s common for players to make their own arrangements for the weekend.
They’ll see plenty of each other, no matter where they stay.
At minimum, this is what’s expected on the interaction front: Durant and Westbrook will be together for media-day interviews on Friday, the West team practice on Saturday, team photos pregame Sunday, and then the actual game. There’s also some time with NBA Entertainment – photos, videos, social media – awaiting both teams, though players aren’t always together in those moments.
Teams also usually have some sort of meeting, if for no other reason than to go over less-than-elaborate game plans for Sunday night. This much about the West game plan is known: Kerr will use all four Warriors together at least in one stretch.
”That’ll be really cool,” Thompson said last month. ”I wonder who the fifth player will be.”
Maybe Durant and Westbrook really will be teammates again.
AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City contributed to this story.