Westbrook told reporters in the summer that he still hadn’t spoke to Durant since he joined Golden State despite reports from Durant in the offseason that his relationship with Westbrook was “still cool.” After a turbulent tenure in which both Westbrook and Durant often argued on the court but backed each other off of it, there was already an obvious tension between the two. But now, with the pair separated by thousands of miles on two completely different teams is there a real rift between Westbrook and Durant? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate is interesting question.
Riley: There’s always been an underlying beef between the two but now it’s even more obvious and will probably only get worst from here. Having two alpha male personalities on one team was a huge problem for the Warriors with Durant and Westbrook. Westbrook was always viewed as the selfish villain who didn’t want to pass Durant the ball in key spots and wanted to hog the glory to himself. At least that’s how he was perceived. Durant’s decision flipped all of that, however, and now Westbrook stands as the hero while Durant inherits the selfish villain role. Durant’s comments about his new team being “selfless” may be 100 percent accurate, but the Thunder accomplished so many great things during Durant’s tenure there with Westbrook that it would be silly to just overlook despite them not winning a title together. The Warriors and Thunder might be the two most talented teams in the NBA’s Western Conference so this obvious rift will only grow as the season revs up.
Green: You don’t play together for a number of years and just develop a total dislike for each other because one player chose to change teams. A lot of these so-called “rifts” are developed from media interviews to fuel an agenda. Durant and Westbrook are two great players who shared a lot of moments with each other, both good and bad. They’re fresh off of the breakup of a team that lasted nearly a decade so of course there’s some animosity that will come off like a heated rift once it’s reported. Without Durant, Oklahoma City wouldn’t even be called a rival by Golden State, so maybe this is a ploy to drum up more interest in what will be a crazy matchup between the two final seeds from last season’s Western Conference Finals.
Riley: The media doesn’t really have to do much work with this beef since it has a life of its own. The disdain and aggravation were already present before Durant even left. Golden State will enter the year loaded with minimum competition. And while most teams will undoubtedly be ready to play them, there’s not going to be a more difficult place for the Warriors to play than Oklahoma’s Chesapeake Energy Arena. There won’t be much competition for Golden State this season, but they’re definitely going to be challenged by Westbrook and the Thunder. The rift is real, and the Warriors/Thunder matchup will push ratings for the next two seasons at least, as both Westbrook and Durant can, ironically, be free agents together after the 2017-2018 campaign.
Green: We’ve spent so much time in prior seasons trying to carve out a problem between these two that it only makes sense that we’re desperately trying to do it again. Trying to drain the noise saying that Oklahoma City can’t match up to Golden State won’t work. These two players definitely aren’t friends right now and it’s a legitimate question as to when they will ever be friends again. But most of this heat is coming from the fact that these two literally just separated. They may not be friends right now but the admiration should still be there when they finally meet on the court. We’re going to take this and run with it like it’s a story, but it’s not. The Warriors are title competitors and we’re just finding something for the Thunder to stay relevant.