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John E. Hoover: As tipoff nears, Westbrook’s relationship with Durant ‘not really up to me’

John E. Hoover: As tipoff nears, Westbrook’s relationship with Durant ‘not really up to me’
Russell Westbrook said at shootaround today that "things happen" like players leaving, but any reconciliation with Kevin Durant is "not really up to me."

Russell Westbrook said at shootaround today that a soured relationship with Kevin Durant is “just how it’s been,” but any reconciliation is “not really up to me.”

OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s here. The day has arrived. The time has come.

Kevin Durant is back in the Sooner State, back in Oklahoma City, back in Chesapeake Arena.

What’s going to happen tonight when Oklahoma’s Least Favorite Son, Public Enemy No. 1, KD himself leaves the safety of the Golden State Warriors team hotel, steps away from his extra security detail (is he serious?) and laces up his signature shoes?

How will Thunder fans react? How will the Thunder react? How will Russell Westbrook react?

“Uh, I don’t know,” Westbrook said today after OKC’s shootaround. “We shall see.”

Indeed we shall.

We have a pretty good inkling of what won’t happen after the game: late Friday night, reports surfaced that Durant hit up an old acquaintance, a downtown restaurateur, for postgame access to his steakhouse, where Durant supposedly offered a $40,000 tab.

Request denied.

Rumors are it was the same postgame hangout frequented by Westbrook and his pals.

Solid business decision, since one is now an invader and the other feels like a lifer.

And speaking of business decisions, it was Westbrook who played down Durant’s Independence Day business decision to leave Oklahoma City for the golden pastures of Golden State. More money and a better contract awaited Durant in OKC, but he left for a ring — or, to grow his game — or, because he likes those guys — or, whatever.

“I mean, obviously, us playing together here, we grew up here together, you know, since then,” Westbrook said, answering a question about his relationship with Durant. “You know, decisions have been made for him and what’s best for his future, and I made the decision that was best for mine, and that’s just how it’s been.”

(Maybe Westbrook simply misspoke, but “decisions have been made for him” certainly fuels the narrative that Durant is soft — “cupcake” is the popular derogative, courtesy of Kendrick Perkins — and was incapable of making the decision to take on the challenge of bringing a championship to OKC.)

Durant and Westbrook were always portrayed as brothers in Oklahoma City, fighters who would go to the mat for one another — remember Durant’s very public “He’s a idiot” reference to Mavs owner Mark Cuban when Cuban said Westbrook wasn’t a superstar?

So why didn’t Durant have the common courtesy to tell his brother-in-arms he was leaving? Why did Westbrook have to find out when Durant announced his “next chapter” in The Players Tribune? And why does Durant spin falsehoods about the “media” fueling this conflict when, as a wannabe member of the media, he could have nipped it in the bud?

Why haven’t Westbrook and Durant spoken since last summer?

“I mean, sometimes it happens like that,” Westbrook said. “Ain’t nothing I can say about it. You know, sometimes that’s how things go.”

As usual, Steven Adams offered a unique perspective on the whole thing.

“What’s good about tonight is it’s another challenge that’s gonna challenge our, kind of, system and our focus and mental concentration for the whole game,” Adams said. “That’s what it’s gonna test. I can’t speak for the rest of the boys, but personally, that’s kind of what I really want to kind of challenge tonight, just see how we kind of respond.”

Adams said he also hasn’t spoken with Durant (“He’s not on my team. Do I need to talk to him?”) but said it’s just “hard enough to win a game” and that a team like Golden State can “punish you” for making the smallest mistake.

“All that stuff that kind of had nothing to do with basketball, we just, like, get rid of it and say it doesn’t affect us,” Adams said.

Things do come up in the locker room, Adams said, but they don’t make it onto the floor.

“Whoever vents,” he said, “you’ve got to make fun of it, whatever problems we’re going through, just because we’re the boys, you know? Other than that, everybody’s used to it now. They just talk. It’s just family-type stuff, you know? It wouldn’t be family if you don’t give each other a hard time about it.”

One thing is certain: Durant is no longer a part of this family.

Westbrook was asked if that fact hurts.

“Hurt?” Westbrook echoed. “Um, I mean, I’m fine. I’m fine, honestly. Move forward. Things happen in life, man. As a man, you’ve got to move forward. I’ve got a great group of guys here that I love like my brothers.

“There’s been many a teammates that I had here before that left me, and they’re my brothers, you know, that I still talk to, that I don’t talk to. It’s not just Kevin. There’s many guys that come in and out of Oklahoma City that I’ve (had) relationships with that maybe you guys may not know about.

“But obviously, with Kevin, it’s a little bigger stage. It happens.”

Is there any hope they can be brothers again someday?

“I’m not sure,” Westbrook said. “It’s not really up to me, honestly.”


Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.

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Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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