The Golden State Warriors meet the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Oracle Arena tonight with an intriguing subplot that might just overshadow two Western Conference rivals duking it out.
Last season, the Thunder held a 3-1 lead over the Warriors in the Conference Finals before succumbing to the 2015 champions in seven games.
The fallout of that loss saw Kevin Durant depart the 405 in free agency and head to the Warriors, a move that has been heavily criticised around the league.
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Leaving Russell Westbrook behind in OKC to pursue his championship dreams with the strongest possible team - who won a record-setting 73 regular season games last season - when the Thunder were on the cusp of challenging rubbed plenty of people the wrong way.
Reportedly, Westbrook was one of those people. In an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, KD denied he has any beef with his former running buddy.
“It just shows the way of the world right now," Durant said. "Like, a beef? Bro, I don’t beef with nobody. I’ve seen beefs go the wrong way. We’ve all seen it. The wrong way – real life wrong way, so you can’t say beef around me. I’m not into no basketball beef.
Where me or Russ comes from, beef – you don’t just throw that word around like that. We have a miscommunication going on between a lot of people, a lot of assumptions – you can say that. But a beef? Nah, there ain’t no beef man."
Although it is believed some of the reported animosity stems from KD's departure, the manner in which the 2014 MVP left seems to have done the damage. Instead of talking to one of his close friends, KD texted Westbrook to tell him he was leaving the Thunder.
So have the duo talked since Durant headed to Oakland?
"No, we haven’t," Durant revealed. "You know, I’m not saying what I did was right, or I’m not saying that I was right about anything. I went about it how I thought I should have went about it. I like to sit on things and digest them and then I’ll figure out my next move, but I never said I was right for doing anything.
"We’ll figure that stuff out as men behind closed doors, and we’ll figure our whole relationship out behind closed doors. But yeah, it is what it is. We just try to move forward.”
To start the season, Durant is averaging 28.5 points, four assists and nine rebounds. Conversely, Westbrook has 37.8 points, 10 assists and 10.8 rebounds and is soaring as the new leader of the Thunder.
Both teams have only played four games so far this season, but it is OKC who sits top of the west as the only unbeaten side in the conference. Golden State were expected to reign supreme with their 'super team' of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant, but wouldn't it be the ultimate justification for Westbrook if they could continue to defy Durant's dreams and seriously contend?
Their first stern test takes place tonight at the Oracle.