Posted by Royce Young
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder locker room is typically a pretty fun, loud place to be before games. But Thursday night, it had a much more somber, serious tone to it.
Maybe it had something to do with what happened a night before in Memphis. Or maybe, it had more to do with the story that came out after that game. Which appeared to be the case.
A day after a reported altercation on the Thunder bench against Memphis which led to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook supposedly having to be separated, the team basically did absolutely everything possible to shoot all that noise and chatter down.
Westbrook, who did not speak to the media following an 0-13 performance in a win over the Grizzlies completely blew it off.
"What happened?" he said when asked about the incident. "Oh, I don't know what you're talking about. But we got a game tonight and I'm looking forward to playing against Dallas."
Durant took a similar approach.
"I don't think nothing happened," he said. "People keep saying we had this and that happen on the sideline. Nobody seen nothing. They didn't hear anything. Somebody said that something happened. Everybody on the bench was yelling, the coaches were yelling, not at each other in a bad way but trying to get everything in order. We gave up a few points in that possession so we were trying to get back in order. We were playing a good game and slacked off a little bit for two or three minutes so everybody was yelling.
Reportedly the incident occurred with about three minutes left in the second quarter when Westbrook passed the ball to an open Thabo Sefolosha who didn't take a 3. Westbrook loudly yelled "Shoot the f------ ball!" which evidently led to Westbrook raging on the bench during the next timeout. Kendrick Perkins stepped in to try and calm Westbrook down and then Durant did, which reportedly escalated things.
"It wasn't just myself or Russell or Perk. It was everybody," Durant said. "It was nothing that people should be blowing out of proportion. It happens every single day. Teams go through emotions, things happen. It's a competitive sport man, everybody's not always going to come in and be happy.
"I think you guys should just let it go man. I know you guys like conflict but you should just let it go."
Westbrook's mood was extremely reserved as he was clearly annoyed at the line of questioning he was met with before the game. Durant had a similar tone, but was at least willing to expound on the situation a bit. But it was certainly a different atmosphere than normal before a Thunder game. Maybe that had something to do with the world champion Mavericks being in town, but maybe not.
Westbrook said at the end of last season that he wanted to do a better job controlling his emotions and temper. I asked how he felt he was doing with that this season.
"Okay. I could definitely do better," he said. "But it's early in the year. We're winning. So everything's good."
Head coach Scott Brooks did his best to just pass this off as just the life of an NBA team.
"If you don't have disagreements, that means your team isn't very good," he said. "The game before that I got into a heated debate against our bigs. They weren't doing a good job in pick-and-roll defense. I think it's debate. To me an altercation is a fight or a shove or something like that. A discussion is different than an altercation but that did not happen.
"I've been coaching these guys for four years and we haven't had one fight, which surprises me," Brooks said. "We haven't had any issues that were below the belt where I had to step in."