LOS ANGELES – While the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns are preparing for their first round playoff series, a lot of eyes are on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
The two former Oklahoma City Thunder stars have been apart for seven seasons now, but this will be the first time the two will face off in a series since their separation in the summer of 2016. Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors reportedly didn’t go over well, and some of that bled onto the court when the Thunder and Warriors played in Oklahoma City for the first time since the trade.
So after all this time, what will it be like for Westbrook facing off against his former teammate, now with the Phoenix Suns?
“It’s nothing, it’ll be normal for me,” Russell Westbrook said of facing Kevin Durant for the first time in a playoff series. “I think people still think there’s some beef or something. There’s no beef of any sort. I think that’s the narrative for media, for people to talk about. But there’s no beef that 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. He knows I’m gonna compete, I know he’s gonna compete, and that’s all it is.”
Russell Westbrook on facing Kevin Durant:
“It’ll be normal for me. I think people still think there’s some beef or something. There’s no beef. I got not hing but respect for him and things he’s done with his career. Happy to see him back from injury.”
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 12, 2023
This isn’t the first time Westbrook has shut down any rumored beef with Durant. Back in December of 2019, following a game between the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers, Russell Westbrook was asked how the parting between him and Paul George was amicable having seen how the Kevin Durant divorce went.
Needless to say, Westbrook didn’t like the assumptions being thrown out there.
After my question for Russell Westbrook about Paul George, Russ gets into a pretty testy exchange with a reporter who said that he and Kevin Durant’s split with the Thunder wasn’t amicable or on good terms.#Rockets #Clippers pic.twitter.com/AT67tYRIxa
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 20, 2019
He was already a very efficient player, but Kevin Durant has seemingly turned it up a few notches since joining the Golden State Warriors. Durant turned into a 50 percent scorer with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but has shot better than 51 percent from the field since 2017.
What may be most impressive about Durant is just how efficient he’s gotten as a seven-footer. Durant posted a career-year as far as efficiency goes, shooting 56 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from three, and 91.9 percent from the free throw line.
Russell Westbrook says that’s where Durant has made the biggest growth over his time with the Warriors, Nets, and Suns.
“He’s always been very efficient, but I think his ability to be even more efficient and still score the ball at a high rate. He’s probably one of the best scorers I’ve seen, just can score at ease and looks so effortless. I think over the years, he’s figured out ways to score the ball at a very, very high rate.”
Russell Westbrook on where he’s seen Kevin Durant grow:
“He’s always been very efficient, but his ability to be even more efficient and still score the ball at a high rate. Probably one of the best scorers I’ve seen, can score the ball at a high rate.”
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 12, 2023
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played eight seasons together, totaling 526 regular season games. The duo had a 331-195 regular season record together and a 47-35 record in the playoffs. The duo even reached the NBA Finals in 2012, but ultimately fell short to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.
Reflection on their time together isn’t something Westbrook has done, but says it is something he will do.
“Definitely man. Sit down at times, look at back in the day, those series & what could have been. Definitely but not as much as I’ll probably reflect when I’m done playing, I’ll probably reflect on it a lot more.”
“Definitely man. Look at back in the day and what could’ve been. Not as much [now]. Probably when I’m done playing, I’ll probably reflect on it a lot more.”
Russell Westbrook on reflecting on his time with Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 12, 2023
In his 21 appearances with the Clippers, Russell Westbrook averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.6 percent from three, both of which would be career-highs for a season.
Kevin Durant’s only played eight games with the Phoenix Suns, but he’s been incredible for them as expected. He’s averaged 26 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game on 57 percent shooting from the field and 53.7 percent from three.
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