PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — As Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant prepare to face each other in a playoff series for the first time, Westbrook says there is no animosity between him and his former Oklahoma City teammate.
Westbrook and Durant will be reunited on the floor when the LA Clippers face the Phoenix Suns in the first round on Sunday.
“It will be normal for me,” Westbrook said about what it will be like to face his former Thunder teammate. “I think people still think like there’s some beef or something. There’s no beef of any [kind], so I think that’s the good narrative for media, for people to talk about.
“But there’s no beef. I got nothing but respect for him and things he’s done with his career and having to see him back from injury. There’s no beef at all. But he knows I’m going to compete and I know he’s going to compete and that’s all it is.”
Westbrook and Durant were teammates for eight seasons, leading the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012 before Durant left to sign with Golden State in 2016-17. From 2008-09 to 2015-16, Westbrook assisted to Durant 1,465 times, by far the most of any combination during that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. No other duo even reached 1,000 over those seasons.
Westbrook and Durant have faced each other 11 times since their split, with Westbrook’s teams going 6-5 against Durant’s teams in regular-season meetings.
Durant has averaged 32 points while Westbrook averages 28.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.5 assists in those matchups.
The Clippers can use that kind of production from Westbrook. While Paul George was on the court getting shots up before practice on Wednesday, the Clippers’ All-Star remains sidelined and the team gave no timeline for return in their last injury update late last week. The Clippers will need Westbrook to play like the former MVP that he is to help them counter Phoenix’s potent starting lineup that features Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.
The Clippers have faced superstars and prolific scorers in recent playoff series from Luka Doncic to Nikola Jokic to Donovan Mitchell. But the Clippers have spoken of Durant this week as if he’s the biggest offensive obstacle they’ve faced yet.
“I respect all those guys,” Clippers forward Nic Batum said. “But he’s in a different category. KD is different than all those guys. Those guys are great, but KD is KD. He’s a champion, one of the all-time greats, one of the best small forwards we’ve ever seen in this league, in this game overall. It’s not easy when you face a matchup like this.”
Westbrook is looking forward to being back in the playoffs after missing the postseason with the Lakers last season and facing his old teammate.
“Just his ability — he’s always been very efficient,” Westbrook said of Durant. “But I think his ability to be more efficient and still score the ball at a high rate. … He’s probably one of the best scorers I’ve seen, just can score at ease and look so effortlessly.
“I think over the years, he’s figured out ways to score the basketball at a very, very high rate, and that’s kind of what I’ve seen over the years.”