Thursday's game between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder will mark the first time Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook face each other as NBA opponents, and despite all the perceived animosity between the two, Durant says he still views Westbrook as a "brother."
"We were brothers. We are brothers," Durant told the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday when speaking of his relationship with his former teammate.
Durant's decision to sign with Golden State over Oklahoma City has been interpreted by many as confirmation that he and the Thunder point guard never got along, a sentiment Durant dismisses.
"You only see [Russ and I], everybody only see us, on this court at 7 o'clock," Durant told the newspaper. "So how can you comment anything we have going on relationship-wise? Basketball-wise, you can make your assumptions because it's out there in front of you. That's the facts. But you can't tell me what type of person I was with Russell or what type of person he was with me. They don't have a clue. They don't. So how can they say that?
"All that stuff I hear is lies. All that stuff that I'm taking shots at the Thunder or Russell, it's just there to try to separate us. They did it when we were playing together. They tried to separate us. So obviously, they're going to do it even more now. C'mon. I don't have nothing against Russell. As I shouldn't. And I don't think he have nothing against me. I don't think he's taking shots at me. I don't think he's doing anything that everyone is putting out there. It's for your entertainment, your pleasure, your joy. I see it all the time. They want us to beef because of the game on Thursday. They want more suspense and excitement when they turn the TV on ... That's what they want. But I'm not letting that get between us."
While Durant is happy to have joined the Warriors, he admits he could've done a better job of breaking the news to Westbrook by sending more than just a text message.
"That's something me and him will talk about. I'm not saying I'm right. I'm not saying I did it the right way. I'm owning up to that," Durant told the Mercury News. "We're not going to go through this in the media, though. I'm not going to say I should've did this, should've did that. We'll figure our differences out as men one-on-one. ... We're going through a tough time right now in our relationship. But we're brothers at the end of the day."
Although the Thunder are now his Western Conference foes, Durant told USA Today on Tuesday that he is still watching his old teammates in Oklahoma City, and he noted that Westbrook is "controlling the game."
"I'm definitely watching. The stuff that I've been through with that team and that organization, that stuff doesn't just go away," Durant told USA Today. "I said that in July when I made this decision. It don't just go away, so I've got nothing but love for everybody there. Everybody. No matter how they feel about me, everybody on Oklahoma City, on that team, of course I watch them. I support them. I want them to do well."
If he considers himself and Westbrook brothers and still supports the Thunder, why was Durant's relationship with the point guard always seen as a point of contention? Durant says part of it was based on who the two are as people and where they are in their personal lives.
"Me and Russell grew up together. I was in the phase of finding out who I was outside of basketball. He already knew who he was. He already had a stable life. He had stable parents, a girlfriend through college. I didn't have none of that stuff," Durant told the Mercury News. "I'm trying to find out who I am, which I didn't know, which is not a bad thing. He knew who he was. So obviously, we're going to grow [in different directions]. It's not a bad thing. It's not at all. We still hung out. We're boys. My interest went this way, his went that way. He got married, I didn't. He hung with his wife. What you want me to do? I love Russ. I don't care what nobody say. I don't care what he say or what the fans say. Like, this is a tough time right now in our relationship. But I love Russ. I love his family."
Even with the radio silence between the two, Durant sees a future in which he and Westbrook are back on speaking terms.
"If I'm getting married, he's getting an invite," Durant told the Mercury News. "If I go to the Hall of Fame, he's getting an invite. Even if he don't accept it. Basketball beef, I'm not on that."