One of the few players who might actually have some insight into what Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook went through when his longtime teammate Kevin Durant abandoned him for the Golden State Warriors is Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade.
After all, he was once the second banana left behind by a generational talent when LeBron James left the Miami Heat to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before Wade and the Bulls defeated Westbrook and the Thunder 128-100 last night, he was asked about the similarities between the two situations. But in his opinion, there aren’t many.
A total different situation,” Wade said. “Me and LeBron came in as opponents. We played against each other for seven years. And then, I never thought me and him would play together. We had an opportunity to enjoy four years together. We both was blessed by that. When he decided to leave and go back home, our friendship was so strong that at that time it wasn’t about basketball as we’ve proven. For me, it was about my friend being happy with — when it comes to LeBron James everyone is going to get something out of it, right?”
Wade explained that because the two situations are so different, he can’t say much about Durant and Westbrook’s relationship.
For me, it was all about make sure that he’s happy with whatever he’s doing. If it’s Miami, cool. If it’s back in Cleveland, cool. Just want you to be happy. That’s just as a friend. The basketball side, man, we went to the Finals four years in a row. We went to championships. That was something that I never dreamed of or thought it was going to be possible when we first started playing. It’s a total different situation, relationship. I don’t know anything about [Durant and Westbrook’s] relationship at all, so I can’t comment on theirs, but I know ours was just different.”
But then he went on to say a bunch of stuff about it anyway.
They’re just in different places,” Wade said. “It takes away nothing from what they did together. Everyone doesn’t play together their whole careers. Michael and Scottie didn’t play together their whole careers. Shaq and Kobe didn’t play together their whole careers. It doesn’t happen that way that often. And them guys had an unbelievable run together. Obviously, they were in the Finals once versus us as young guys. And their lives and their careers grew in two different ways. What they wanted was different. And that’s OK. Obviously they have to make those decisions in front of the eyes of the world. And it’s nit-picked and pulled apart, but at the end of the day they both look happy in their situations, and that’s all that matters.”
Wade managed to talk about the contentious relationship between the two superstars without taking sides, or really commenting on the conflict between them. He did note a mjaor difference between their situation and his relationship with James, though. While Durant and Westbrook have stopped talking since Durant left, Wade says his relationship with his former teammate has only gotten stronger since he went back to Cleveland.
It definitely grows stronger as the years go on,” Wade said. “You learn more about someone; you spend more time with them. And then we came to Miami, it grew stronger because we spent — at first it was just, we talk on the phone a lot. Or when I go to Cleveland twice a year and in the summer, then it was every day in Miami. So you really get to know a guy, and get to understand how similar you guys are and then it goes from there. Then you start thinking about after basketball as you’re doing that too. So [the relationship] definitely grows the more time you spend with someone. Is it going to go this way or is it going to go that way? And ours kept grow up the ladder.”
Will the two scorned former OKC teammates’ relationship eventually grow stronger? Only they know, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
As for Wade and James, perhaps their strong bond means a reunion is closer than we might have expected, whether in Cleveland or elsewhere.