Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook yelled at each other last night. And now everyone is yelling about that.
But one thing that I think is very important to note is what this whole thing originated from: Thabo Sefolosha.
Westbrook, as he often gets, was hot and emotional about Thabo passing on a shot. So during the timeout, the team tried to calm him down. The leader of the team, Kevin Durant, was mainly charged with this. Westbrook didn’t like it and freaked out more. If you really think about the situation, you’ll realize it’s not as big a deal as a lot of people think. It’s not as if KD had taken too many shots and Westbrook wanted his. Or that Westbrook was ball-hogging and Durant was frustrated his teammate wasn’t driving between the lines. This was about Thabo Sefolosha for crying out loud.
You can hear Westbrook yell at Thabo loudly in the video above. “Shoot the f—— ball!’ And you know what, Thabo should’ve shot it. He was open in the corner where he’s supposed to take and make that shot. He passed on good setup from Westbrook and Russ being a point guard that felt he did his job to get his teammate a shot, let him down. Westbrook was upset because he wanted something else to shoot it. Shouldn’t that actually be viewed as a good thing?
We’ve heard Durant, Westbrook, Scott Brooks, Sam Presti and everyone else say over and over that arguments happen between teammates and players get frustrated. It’s a long season. These guys are together all the time. If you play pickup basketball long enough on a Wednesday night, you’re bound to get pissed at one of your friends on your team. It’s life in competition.
But it’s important to realize what this was really about. It wasn’t about Durant questioning Westbrook’s shot selection or telling him to know his place. It was about Westbrook getting upset at a teammate and Durant trying to be the leader and put everything back in place.
Russell Westbrook lost it when his teammate wouldn’t shoot, the polar opposite of what we’re supposed to expect of him. In some ways, though, this might be the quinessential Westbrook incident. The intensity, even irrationality, behind this reaction goes deeper than egoism.
It’s an unreconstructed competitive impulse that makes his bouts of selfishness and futility more pitiable than malicious. In his own way, he’s as much of an absolutist as Durant. But while Durant is slippery, and savvy, trained to insert himself into any situation and win, Westbrook is still learning how to care too much and still have it amount to something useful.
Translated: Russell Westbrook is still immature and luckily, he’s just 23 years old so that’s sort of a natural thing. Remember when you were 23? I know I did dumb things. Lucky for me, I didn’t have millions of people watching me lose my cool and embarrass myself.
I can promise you that I’m not sitting here with my fingers in my ears saying, “LALALALALALA” trying to block out this noise. This isn’t a good look for the Thunder. It’s now another distraction the team will have to deal with and answer questions on. It’s all good still because the team is 3-0 and that’s what everyone wants. I think chemistry is a bit overrated in sports, but where it bites you is when things don’t go so well. Lose five in a row and that’s when Westbrook taking a bad shot becomes an issue. And if there’s a preexisting deep-rooted problem, then the fireworks might really start.
But like Doug Gottlieb said Thursday, it would be worse if they weren’t talking. It would be worse if Westbrook and Durant had the type of relationship where it was too awkward or touchy to get into it. That would signal something deeper and darker. An emotional outburst in a big road game though? Is that really that big of a deal? The whole thing happened in the span of a TV timeout and within three minutes, Westbrook and Durant were back on the floor together with KD drilling a sweet 3.
I won’t say this won’t come crumbling down. But it’s just not fair to paint this picture the wrong way. Westbrook didn’t want to be the alpha dog last night. This outburst wasn’t over the things that people wanted it to be over. Again, Thabo Sefolosha. Westbrook actually deferred almost everything Durant’s way late in the game, setting two picks that freed up KD for big shots.
Honestly, it’s more about whether or not KD and Westbrook’s games fit and a lot less about whether or not they like each other. You can be good and hate your whole team. I think this is also known as the Kobe Bryant Rule.
People want to say Westbrook and Durant are feuding. They want to say there’s a rivalry there, they want to ask if they can co-exist. They’re fine, at least right now. They’re talking, they’re yelling, they’re arguing and they’re winning.