Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook played with Kevin Durant for eight years with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here’s what Durant had to say about The Brodie’s style of play.
During the course of the eight seasons Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant played alongside one another, it was easily noticeable that they didn’t mesh well from a cohesiveness standpoint. They struggled to play off one another, and there were always opinions that Durant opted to take the backseat to Westbrook far too often.
On Thursday, Durant was on ESPN’s First Take with Molly Qerim, Stephen A. Smith, and Max Kellerman to discuss many things, including his five favorite players to watch, and how his perceived lack of assertiveness stems from his time playing with Rockets guard Russell Westbrook.
"I think that’s what a lot of people try to say is that I wasn’t assertive in putting Russ in his place, but my whole thing was to let these guys grow and be creative in their own space.”
–KD on critics saying he’s not assertive enough pic.twitter.com/T8M4UNT8xE
— First Take (@FirstTake) October 31, 2019
Durant told First Take that Westbrook is one of those players who will always play his style of basketball.
“Playing with Russell Westbrook, alot of people say that I should [have] put him in his place. He’s a player that you can’t put in his place. He’s a player with a big personality that you can’t tame.”
It’s easy to interpret this as Durant throwing shade at Westbrook, but it’s important to note the meaning of what he was saying. Durant is saying Westbrook is a player who is best when he’s able to be himself and play his style of basketball. During their OKC playing days, Westbrook received criticism for his shot selection and for not embracing his role as the number two scoring option behind KD.
This has been far from the case with the Rockets, as the returns on Westbrook have been better than anyone could have expected. Westbrook has helped the Rockets get off to a 3-1 start, and he is averaging 22.5 points per game on a career best 48.5 percent from the field, while also averaging a triple double. By comparison, the Rockets started the 2018-2019 season off 1-3 in their first four games.
Durant is right in that it’s best to allow Westbrook to play his style of basketball, as he is a player who feeds off emotion and any perceived slight. In addition, regardless of what has happened over the first three quarters of the game, Westbrook has the tendency to deliver during the fourth quarter. Westbrook is currently averaging 11.8 points on 62.18 percent shooting from the field in the fourth quarter, and is easily the Rockets leading scorer in the fourth quarter. By comparison, James Harden is currently averaging 10.8 points on 21.25 percent shooting from the field in the fourth.
Harden has embraced Westbrook’s shot selection and has already been utilizing Durant’s advice of allowing Westbrook to be himself and be free. Westbrook is already on pace for more points, rebounds and assists than Chris Paul had in either of the two seasons he was in Houston and currently ranks eighth in rebounds and second in assists.
Many were wondering how Westbrook and Harden were going to be able to play together, but it’s been easy because Harden hasn’t tried to tame Westbrook and allowed him to be himself.