Bad Blood

“Now we’ve got problems,
And I don’t think we can solve ’em:
You made a really deep cut,
And baby, now we’ve got bad blood!”

Taylor Swift, Bad Blood

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It doesn’t matter whether you love her or you hate her, Taylor Swift wrote the perfect song to describe Russel Westbrook’s relationship with Kevin Durant now that he abandoned him to play for the Warriors.  Whatever is left of a relationship between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the two seemed to already have any interesting dynamic between them before Durant’s departure.  They expressed love for one another off the court, yet their play often existed on a different spectrum: Durant plays with silky smooth handles, while Westbrook ran the court like a bottled bomb.

Now that Durant is going to Golden State, their off-the-court friendship looks like it might be spinning into a collapse.  Durant’s move a message to Westbrook by moving on to OKC: Durant doesn’t consider Westbrook a championship wing man, and to a player with Westbrook’s competitive drive, that’s a serious insult.  

“I just told him. I just let him know how I felt. And obviously, our relationship probably won’t ever be the same again, but it’s something I wanted to do and I expressed that to him. Hopefully, he respected it.” 

Andrew Joseph, Kevin Durant says his relationship with Russell Westbrook ‘probably won’t ever be the same’

When Durant decided to leave Oklahoma City, it not only drastically changed the trajectory of his own career, it also threw Westbrook’s career path significantly off course.  Many writers around the NBA doubt that Westbrook will forgive him for years to come, not only from the standpoint of his loss of status in the upper echelon of the NBA, but for the uncertainty it could cause in Westbrook’s career. 

Now the Oklahoma City Thunder’s General Manager, Sam Presti, is at a difficult crossroads: he must decide if he should trade his teams’ superstar guard or risk losing him for nothing next year when Westbrook enters free agency.  On one side of the coin, Presti cannot afford to lose two of the NBA’s top five in a span of two years without receiving any assets in return; on the other, he could build around Westbrook and avoid playing the lottery and rebuilding another team through the draft from scratch.  Almost any team would make the leap into contention by adding Russel, but as was the case in the Kevin Love for Wiggins trade, Westbrook’s new team would need to have a mutual understanding with him that he would resign after his contract expires.

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Rumors suggest that a Thunder-Celtics trade is in the works, sending Westbrook to Bean-town.  In Boston, Westbrook could be the undisputed leader of a young team, and Brad Stevens’s brilliant coaching could help Westbrook reach MVP heights in the Celtics brilliant and adaptable offensive and defensive schemes.  From a management perspective, Danny Ainge could facilitate Presti’s rebuild with the most draft considerations out of any potential trade partner available.

Whatever team Westbrook ends up playing for next season, will part of a bad blood bath the likes of which the NBA hasn’t seen in a long, long time.

By Don Dooley