The NBA stages post-game press conferences for star players after every playoff game. Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had shared the dais after most Thunder playoff games the previous four years.
Westbrook was missing Saturday after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in Colorado, but Durant didn't take the stage alone following the Thunder's 104-101 victory over Houston in Game 3 at the Toyota Center.
David Gomez, a boy from McAllen, Texas, sat next to Durant, who went against NBA protocol and brought his young friend with him.
“I met this guy when we played down here this season,” Durant said. “He brings us good luck. He's sitting there for Russell.”
Gomez often chats during pregame warm-ups with several Thunder team members, including coach Scott Brooks.
TO THE POINT
Westbrook was held out of preseason games at Utah and Chicago this season, but Saturday was the first time he did not play in 439 career games during the regular season and postseason.
Second-year player Reggie Jackson and 17-year veteran Derek Fisher filled in for Westbrook, combining for 23 points (6 for 12 from the field), three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Westbrook's season averages were 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.8 steals.
“The guys came in and they both stepped up,” Brooks said. “Reggie did just a terrific job. I'm proud of the way he played. He kept his composure during some tough moments of the game. His last five minutes, you would think that he was playing for six or seven years, but it's a great testament to his character.”
Durant was particularly pleased with Jackson's composure when Houston made a furious comeback in the second half.
“I thought Reggie did a great job of keeping us calm,” Durant said. “When they made that run, he was calm that whole fourth quarter. Fish did some great things at the point guard, too.”
Durant and Houston forward Chandler Parsons are both 24 years old and have become friends, but they're separated by four years in the NBA because Durant was drafted at age 18.
They met when Chandler attended Durant's Nike Skill Academy during the summer of 2010.