OKLAHOMA CITY -- In the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook's lockers sit basically side-by-side, and following the Thunder's 114-98 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday, both stars finished dressing simultaneously, leaving the assembled media forced to make a choice.
Talk to Durant, who had 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists, or to Westbrook, who notched his second straight triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
The choice was Durant, who is not only typically more talkative than the abrupt Westbrook, but sort of the de facto team spokesman. Westbrook, with a big grin on his face, started to slip away, free of any postgame media obligations. Then Durant audibled and made the choice himself.
"He's the one that got the triple-double," Durant said, turning to walk away. "I'm outta here."
As it often is for the Thunder, it was a pick 'em for player of the game honors between their two supernova stars. But just as a full house beats a pair of aces, a triple-double beats game-high points, apparently.
Westbrook triple-doubles have become a bit routine, though. This was his seventh of the season, and 26th of his career. This season, he's almost averaging one a game with 24.0 points, 9.9 assists and 7.4 rebounds.
"It means that my teammates do a great job of getting open, creating lanes where I can be effective," Westbrook said. "And I'm just trying to get those guys the basketball and play my game."
Since Durant skipped out, we missed out on what accolades he would have had for Westbrook, but even he doesn't have much else to say about his point guard. He likes to go with "video game" to describe Westbrook, but he almost always notes Westbrook is just doing what he does. Because he has seen it plenty before, he'll say.
But not all Westbrook triple-doubles are created equal. He specializes in the 30-10-10 variety, registering seven of those in the past two seasons, with the next closest player having three (James Harden). But this one was somewhat quiet, if a triple-double can be such a thing. Westbrook was on his way to it basically from tipoff, with 8-4-4 after a quarter. He went to work immediately on John Wall in the post, using his strength and size to score with ease as the Wizards elected not to double-team him.
"Every summer I work more and more on different reads and different things, trying to find ways to be effective down there," Westbrook said. "Not just scoring, but creating mismatches, passing the ball as well."
Westbrook clearly zeroed in on his matchup against Wall, looking to be aggressive against his point guard counterpart. Westbrook would never cop to getting up more for one matchup than another -- and the way he plays night in and night out backs that up -- but whatever his motivations are, he consistently gets the best of Wall, who finished with 17 points on 7-for-17 shooting plus eight assists and six turnovers in 41 minutes. In their other matchup in November, Westbrook also had a triple-double, with 22-11-11 to Wall's nine points (on 4-of-13 shooting) and five assists in a 125-101 Thunder win.
Of course, everyone knows the speculation around Durant and the Wizards. Outside of just having the it's-his-hometown plan, the Wizards seem to have faded from the conversation as their season has wobbled severely, but part of the enduring assumption includes Durant possibly wanting to play with a talented young guard in Wall.
But whether it's intentional or happenstance, Westbrook has sent a message loud and clear in both meetings between the teams. If it's a matter of whom Durant would rather play with, Westbrook has made his case, and then some.
Westbrook always has been the Thunder's best recruiting tool for Durant, and on Monday he showcased once again why that is. Not only is Westbrook one of the best players in the world in his own right, but the two stars have developed a powerful chemistry as they play beautifully off each other. Such as in the first half, when Westbrook dropped what could have been a wide-open fast-break dunk to a streaking Durant, who did the deed himself.
Or in the locker room, where Durant passed the proverbial mic to Westbrook -- though I'm not sure he appreciated it -- and stepped out of his regular postgame spotlight.
On most nights, they share the spotlight. But on this one, Durant wanted Westbrook to have it all to himself.