At least one NBA coach thinks the relationship between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is toxic and beyond repair.
“I think it's very serious, and I think the only thing they can do is split those two guys up,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy joked on Thursday with his team's local reporters. “And I think they need to get them a long way away, I think here to Florida, to diffuse that problem; Kevin Durant here.”
Van Gundy, who watched his Magic give up a combined 44 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to the All-Star duo in an eight-point season-opening loss to the Thunder on Christmas Day, then turned serious. He said Wednesday's altercation between Durant and Westbrook during a second quarter timeout against Memphis is not out of the ordinary over the course of an NBA season.
“When you're together as much as we are in very competitive situations, you're going to have those conflicts,” Van Gundy said. “You're going to have player-coach conflicts and player-player conflicts. You know, you just are. Because everybody is competitive, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to do well and a lot of times you see situations differently.
“You know if you're on the inside when you have problems or not. But the fact that two guys get into an argument on a bench isn't at all indicative of anybody having problems. That's just the normal course of things. Now, if that's happening every night, every game, that's different. But I've watched those guys play together for a long time and they play damn well together. I don't think there's any problem there.”
Durant told The Oklahoman after the Thunder's 98-95 win against the Grizzlies that Wednesday's incident was a case of two players occasionally disagreeing and added that he's “behind (Westbrook) 110 percent, and he's the same with me.”
Westbrook was not available for comment after the game, but Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he didn't have a problem with the dust-up.
“When you have an intense game, you're going to have arguments,” Brooks told The Oklahoman. “I have no problem with it. I think it's healthy. I think you learn from it and you get better with it. That's just part of an NBA game. We have it and other teams have it. Good teams, bad teams and average teams. I have no issues with how our guys compete. At times they get frustrated. But it's always about the team.”