Teammates-turned-enemies Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant inhabited the same basketball court while wearing the same color jersey for a grand total of 80 seconds on Sunday night. At one point, the latter threw an alley-oop to the former for two of the Western Conference’s 192 points in the NBA All-Star Game–a glorified, defense-optional exhibition with no stakes. Judging from the online reaction, you’d think this brief detente was on par with Middle East foes coming to a peace accord.
Allow me to dump some icy cold water on any lingering warmness you may be feeling for the perceived Durant-Westbrook reconciliation. Allow me to take words right out of Westbrook’s quote bucket to do so.
“He threw a lob,” Westbrook said. “That’s all that happened. Just threw a lob. It’s basketball. That’s it.”
Yep. That’s it. Nothing’s changed.
This was not a cooling of the tensions between the two superstars. It was an alley-oop. And one that didn’t really count for anything.
If Durant actually passing to Westbrook brought you some form of happiness, it’s time to take a step back and recognize just how sad it is that the bar is set that low. Not tossing the ball up for a cutting Westbrook would have been pure spite. Durant didn’t really have a choice.
The connection wasn’t really anything to celebrate. Instead, it was cause to lament. To lament that this feud has gotten to this point. For awhile I found the thorough analysis of both verbal and nonverbal signals sent by both of these guys silly and trivial. I was wrong to underestimate the stubbornness and pettiness present which allowed this feud to fester and still be a thing in late-February.
But here we are. After several months and scores of opportunities to squash the beef, including an entire weekend in New Orleans, we appear no closer to peace than when the feelings were the most raw. This must be what they want because, if it wasn’t, they’d do something about it.
Eighty seconds of shared time on the court and hooking up for one easy bucket didn’t change anything, no matter how rosy the lens one views it through. The brief time Durant and Westbrook spent playing with each other on Sunday night wasn’t a cathartic or uplifting experience. It was profoundly sad.
Their Western Conference teammates felt the awkwardness. It wasn’t fun for anyone. The two primaries couldn’t even make eye contact after connecting on a lob.
There was no resolution. No happy ending. Just two empty, largely pointless points.