Kevin Durant’s stunning move to Golden State this summer was facilitated by a perfect storm of once-in-a-generation circumstances: The Oklahoma City Thunder letting a 3-1 lead slip away against the Warriors in the West finals; the Warriors letting the same happen in The Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers; the salary cap exploding; Steph Curry happening to be on a comically below-market deal when it did.
But it’s possible the seeds of Durant’s departure were sown before any of those improbable factors came to bear. In the immediate wake of his decision, there were reports that he’d grown frustrated with the oft-reckless, ball-dominant proclivities of longtime running mate Russell Westbrook. And according to their former Thunder teammate Kendrick Perkins, the two never appreciated each other enough during the eight years they played together.
Here’s what Perkins told Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical Podcast with Woj, as transcribed by NewsOK’s Brett Dawson:
I think to me, what happened was with Russ and KD, I think they never really valued each other like (they) should have. And not saying that they didn’t value as, like, didn’t like each other. What I’m talking about is … I don’t think Russ ever realized and said, ‘Hey, man, I got Kevin Durant on my side. We could take over this league.’ And I never thought KD did vice versa. He never said, ‘Hey, I got Russell Westbrook on my side.’ You got two of the top five players in the NBA on the same team. And I just think that they never valued each other, and trust me – I’m telling you this right now – when they think about this 10 years later, they’re gonna regret that. They’re gonna regret that they didn’t value each other the way that they should have. And I’m talking about both of them.
Perkins feels like the whole thing might’ve been avoided if external pressures – and constant speculation from outsiders about whether they could coexist – hadn’t gotten in the way.
“It never really came down to those two guys that got in the way of each other,” he said. “It always was the outside that got in the way of both of them. … It was always a controversy of whose team it was. Why it just can’t be both of y’all’s team? How about Russ goes for 50 one night, you go for 60 the next night?”
Whatever the case, Westbrook reportedly didn’t take Durant’s exit well, and says the two haven’t spoken since Durant announced his decision on the Fourth of July. Having played with them and watched their relationship grow over four seasons, Perkins is struggling with the sudden schism.
“With them not talking right now, that bothers me,” Perkins said. “Because I know both of them, they care for each other and love each other, despite the decision that KD made. With me reading an article saying that they haven’t talked to each other, that bothers me. Because I know that their relationship off the court and on the court had grew way past that. …
“I felt like they have grown – and I’m talking about from the time when I was there when they was 21 and 22 years old. They have grown on and off the court so much that I don’t want them to have to end their friendship and relationship. It’s no reason that they should not be talking. They went a whole summer and they haven’t heard a word or said a word to each other. And I don’t like that.”