BY JOHN ROHDE
Feb. 18, 2017
Presumably, Russell Westbrook knows better.
He knows better than to deliberately ignore former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant during Sunday night’s All-Star Game in New Orleans.
There is no doubt in my mind Durant will pass the ball to Westbrook for an open dunk or jumper while they share the court against the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Given the lack of defense at this event, heaven knows there’ll be plenty of opportunities.
For Westbrook’s sake, here’s hoping he’ll be wise enough do the same in kind for Durant.
Western Conference All-Star coach Steve Kerr absolutely, positively should play Westbrook (non-starter) alongside Durant (starter) during the game, for at least one shift and possibly several. After all, no tandem at this year’s All-Star Game has played alongside each other longer than Westbrook and Durant.
They know each other’s tendencies better than any other teammates. They were together for eight years with the Thunder and also with USA Basketball during summers. Meanwhile, Durant joined the Golden State Warriors less than eight months ago.
Westbrook and Durant know what the other is thinking, though I’m not so sure given what has transpired since Durant left the Thunder on July 4.
Westbrook and/or Durant intentionally freezing out each other would bring embarrassment similar to the alleged Michael Jordan freeze out in the 1985 All-Star Game.
Kerr deliberately not playing Westbrook and Durant together would only add to an already awkward situation. This is the perfect chance to take a huge step forward for both players, not to mention social media.
We’ve reached the point where all this pride is starting to look petty.
Westbrook and Durant don’t have to hug it out, or pose side-by-side for pictures, or share the stage during postgame interviews. This is about simply passing the ball to each other; a head nod of acknowledgement; a finger point after a nice play; a slap of the hand.
These actions, particularly from Westbrook, would keep the integrity of basketball above their personal rivalry.
What better stage to recapture some of that Westbrook-Durant magic than Sunday night? The All-Star Game is an exhibition and it sure would be great if both players exhibited some class by rising above the fray together.
Afterward, when the regular-season begins again, Westbrook could return to his Big Freeze treatment of Durant. Hey, it’d be shocking if Westbrook didn’t.