Russell Westbrook dodged the media on Wednesday after his dust-up with Kevin Durant during the second-quarter timeout that has hoops blogs around the world talking about the beef. Instead Westbrook used his own Twitter account to speak volumes with a one-word post Thursday afternoon: “Mindset.”
Hours later before the Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off against the Dallas Mavericks, he basically shook off the drama with Durant that played out in headlines to pleading ignorance.
“What happened?” guard Westbrook said before the game. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And with that, Westbrook moved forward.
Once the scene switched from pregame locker room interviews to the floor, Westbrook and Durant exchanged smiles and chest pounds in front everyone and officially put behind them whatever perceived drama existed on the sidelines and played out in the headlines. But how did it even get to that point where the two were placed under the microscope?
“It’s nothing people should be blowing out of proportion,” Durant said. “It happens every single day. Teams go through emotions and things happen. It’s a competitive sport, man. Everybody’s not going to come in and be happy every single day. You know what I mean? I think you guys should just let it go, man. I know you guys like conflict, just let it go.”
Durant let it go alright.
He let scored 30 points and hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to lift the Thunder over the winless Dallas Mavericks, 104-102.
As for Westbrook, his seven turnovers may have shadowed his 16 point game on 6-15 from the field. But he received a lift that’s for sure — and it came from the Thunder fans echoing his name late in the game as he went to the free-throw line.
“It’s amazing what these fans will do for you,” Westbrook said after the game.
Added head coach Scott Brooks: “I’ve never seen in my NBA 20-something years what the crowd did. They knew he was struggling. He struggled, and they were chanting his name.”
This is afterall about, as Westbrook puts it, “Mindset”.
From his 0-13 night versus the Grizzlies to committing 25 turnovers his last four games played, this is still a young man who is finding his way in the league and carrying the pressures that come with being a pro. Every rookie in the NBA is required to attend a “Rookie Transition” seminar put on by the league to discuss the transition from college into the league, handling finances, interacting with those in the organization, fans, media, and a number of topics that hopefully will help every player handle the major adjustment they’ve just been thrusted into as an NBA player.
Fairly certain the program doesn’t cover how to handle a timeout blowup with a superstar teammate four years into your career.
Perhaps Westbrook could have easily defused the situation had he simply talked with the media after the game with Memphis. It’s not like the sideline screamfest went down in a big market like New York or Los Angeles. At the most Westbrook could have spoken his mind, apologized for the flair-up, and put it in the past by talking to a handful of beat writers, columnist, bloggers, TV reporters and radio types for a couple minutes.
Instead he gave himself time to settle down.
And in the end, Westbrook said everything without really saying anything at all.