West­brook, Du­rant will be to­gether again

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS - By Tim Reynolds

The next time Rus­sell West­brook walks into a locker room to get dressed for a game, Kevin Du­rant will be there and don­ning the same uni­form.

Get ready for per­haps the best sub­plot of All-Star Week­end. Russ and KD, to­gether again. The for­mer Ok­la­homa City team­mates are go­ing to be West­ern Con­fer­ence team­mates on Sun­day night when the league holds its an­nual Al­lS­tar Game in New Or­leans. And after the Thun­der went into the break by beat­ing the New York Knicks on Wed­nes­day night, the in­evitable ques­tion was posed to West­brook: Are you ready for this?

"I'm ex­cited about All-Star week­end," said West­brook, the two-time reign­ing All-Star MVP. "I think in gen­eral, just be­ing able to be there and en­joy the op­por­tu­nity ... hum­bled by the op­por­tu­nity to be there."

So the ques­tion was sidestepped.

It'll get asked to both West­brook and Du­rant again— likely many, many times—over the com­ing days.

They've been on the same court to­gether three times this sea­son, Du­rant and his new Golden State War­riors team­mates beat­ing West­brook and the Thun­der all three times— most re­cently last week­end in Ok­la­homa City, when Du­rant and West­brook went 1-on-1 at times and even jawed at each other a bit dur­ing the game. This will be dif­fer­ent. Prob­a­bly awk­ward, too. "I don't know," West­brook said. "We're go­ing to find out."

It was the breakup that shook the NBA last sum­mer: Du­rant left Ok­la­homa City as a free agent and chose to sign with Golden State, a team that won the NBA ti­tle in 2015, went to The Fi­nals again last sea­son and has the league's best record this sea­son. The War­riors al­ready were a su­perteam, and then they landed an­other su­per­star.

Du­rant in­sists he tries to ig­nore any­one who crit­i­cized his de­ci­sion.

"I de­fine my ca­reer, at the end of the day," Du­rant said. "And it's pretty damn good so far."

Du­rant and West­brook had great sea­sons with the Thun­der, even get­ting to the 2012 NBA Fi­nals where they lost to Mi­ami in five games, but never were able to hoist a cham­pi­onship ban­ner to­gether.

So Du­rant moved on, and their re­la­tion­ship—what­ever it was—es­sen­tially ended.

"He plays for his team. I play for my team," West­brook said. "Let him do his thing. I do my thing. And that's it, plain and sim­ple."

What might make this even more daunt­ing for West­brook is that Du­rant is com­ing with his new­est friends. Golden State has four All-Stars in Du­rant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thomp­son and Dray­mond Green, not to men­tion West coach Steve Kerr. Du­rant and Curry will start; Thomp­son and Green are re­serves, like West­brook.

The Thun­der and the War­riors have both com­pleted their pre-Al­lS­tar Game sched­ules, so that means the first in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Du­rant and West­brook in New Or­leans might come as early as Thurs­day. All-Stars all get rooms at the same ho­tel, though that doesn't nec­es­sar­ily mean they're at risk for an awk­ward el­e­va­tor ride to­gether. It's com­mon for play­ers to make their own ar­range­ments for the week­end.

They'll see plenty of each other, no mat­ter where they stay.

At min­i­mum, this is what's ex­pected on the in­ter­ac­tion front: Du­rant and West­brook will be to­gether for me­di­a­day in­ter­views on Fri­day, the West team prac­tice on Satur­day, team pho­tos pregame Sun­day, and then the ac­tual game. There's also some time with NBA En­ter­tain­ment—pho­tos, videos, so­cial me­dia—await­ing both teams, though play­ers aren't al­ways to­gether in those mo­ments.

Teams also usu­ally have some sort of meet­ing, if for no other rea­son than to go over less-than-elab­o­rate game plans for Sun­day night. This much about the West game plan is known: Kerr will use all four War­riors to­gether at least in one stretch.

"That'll be re­ally cool," Thomp­son said last month. "I won­der who the fifth player will be."

Maybe Du­rant and West­brook re­ally will be team­mates again.

As­so­ci­ated Press

n Ok­la­homa City Thun­der guard Rus­sell West­brook (0) goes up for a dunk in front of New York Knicks for­ward Kristaps Porzingis (6) dur­ing the fourth quar­ter of an NBA bas­ket­ball game Wed­nes­day in Ok­la­homa City. Ok­la­homa City won, 116-105.

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