Russell Westbrook seemingly never wanted to address Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder for the Warriors. In his first interview after the signing, Westbrook downplayed tension with Durant. In a GQ article released today, Westbrook benignly says of Durant:
“I mean, obviously in the NBA there’s a lot of different decisions that people make,” he says. “The whole thing in the NBA is that people sometimes have an opportunity to go where they want. And Kevin chose a place where he wanted to go.”
Yet, in the same breather he says he doesn’t want to answer any more Durant questions, Westbrook also provides his most salacious sound bite since the split: “That’s cute, man. That’s cute. My job is to worry about what’s going on here. We’re going to worry about all the selfish guys we’ve got over here, apparently. So, we’re going to figure that out.”
Why does Westbrook keep pulling the tail on a topic he seems to know he wants to avoid? This seems revealing.
Westbrook, via Daniel Riley of GQ:
“I don’t know how to be cool. You know what I mean? That’s not in my nature. I only know how to play one way. I can’t, like, decide to turn the switch on and off. I’m not good enough to do that.”
But what does it feel like to know that’s how people perceive him, even if he doesn’t perceive himself that way? “I just don’t care. A lot of people don’t really know me. All they know is what they see on TV. So I don’t mind it. Because I play basketball different than how I am off the court. When I’m on the court, everybody thinks I’m angry and I’m mad. I’m fine with that. But that’s why I think some people are confused until they see me off the court. They’ll run into me and be like: ‘Oh, I thought you were gonna be mad.’ But why would I be mad?”
This fits so much of what we know about Westbrook’s game and personality. This is what makes him so great.
It’s also what makes it hard to believe he views playing Durant and Golden State as just any other game. Westbrook says he feels that way and might want to feel that way, and it’s easier for him to convince himself of that off the court.
But when the ball tips and Durant is on the other side, I think we know what’s in store.