Posted by Sabrina B.Â @gametimegirl
Kevin Durant has fired back.
And rather than taking sides with the television talking head who has had his back, Durant chose to ride with his teammate, defending Russell Westbrook from what has become daily criticism by ESPN First Takeâ€™s Skip Bayless.
â€œThat guy doesnâ€™t know a thing about basketball,â€ Durant said of Bayless before the Thunder faced Memphis on Monday night.
Bayless, a longtime sports journalist who hails from Oklahoma City, refers to himself as a Thunder fan but habitually blasts Westbrook for being a shoot-first point guard and taking more shots than Durant, the reigning two-time scoring champ.
Going into Mondayâ€™s game, Westbrook was within three shots of Durantâ€™s number of attempts this season.
But the Thunder is 20-4 when Westbrook takes more shots than Durant, and Oklahoma City has won by an average margin of 12.4 points in those victories.
â€œWeâ€™re worse when I take more shots,â€ Durant said. â€œLike I said, that guy doesnâ€™t know a thing. I donâ€™t think he watches us. I think he just looks at the stats. And traditionally, a point guard is not supposed to take more shots than everybody else on the team. But weâ€™re better when he does do that and heâ€™s aggressive. And Iâ€™m better when Iâ€™m out there facilitating, rebounding, defending and being more efficient on my shots with less shots.â€
Both Durant and Westbrook are in the middle of the most efficient seasons of their careers. Durant is shooting a career-high 50.4 percent, while Westbrook has connected on a career-high 47.7 percent of his shots. Durantâ€™s 27.7-point average ranks second behind Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, while Westbrookâ€™s 24.5-point average is fifth behind Bryant, Durant, Minnesota forward Kevin Love and Miami forward LeBron James.
â€œSkip Bayless, heâ€™s just a funny character, man,â€ Durant said.
In early December, Durant also took exception to criticism from one of the debate-style showâ€™s panelist, former NFL player Hugh Douglas. Douglas ripped James for an end zone celebration James performed during a flag football game with Durant. Durant posted a series of messages calling out Douglas and questioning his expertise. It prompted another of the showâ€™s prominent panelist, Stephen A. Smith, to invite Durant to the â€œdebate deskâ€ to face any of his desired panelists any time he wanted.
Durant told Smith on Twitter then, and reiterated on Monday, that he wouldnâ€™t be opposed to accepting the showâ€™s invitation.
â€œNo doubt,â€ Durant said. â€œIâ€™ll stick up for all my guys, especially against a guy that I have never seen at an NBA game before. It just starts to get sickening when you hear somebody talk about your teammate like that almost every day. So Iâ€™ll stick up for him every single day.â€
With Bayless blasting Westbrook with heavy criticism dating to last yearâ€™s playoffs, Durant admitted that he was waiting for someone to ask his opinion about the sports commentator.
â€œRussellâ€™s having a phenomenal season,â€ Durant said. â€œI get upset when people kind of overlook that because of me needing more shots or stuff like that. Heâ€™s having the best point guard in the league type of year. Weâ€™re winning games and the other stuff doesnâ€™t matter.â€
Durant added that the non-stop criticism actually has pulled the entire team closer together.
â€œBecause people from the outside donâ€™t really have a (feel) on what goes on in the locker room or how we go about every single day,â€ Durant said. â€œGuys focus on the guys here in the locker room and the coaches and trainers and everybody here in this organization. All we focus on is each other and we canâ€™t worry about what outside people say because what Iâ€™ve learned is people are going to like you and people are going to hate you.â€
Westbrook, meanwhile, took the criticism in stride. He said he doesnâ€™t watch ESPN First Take but said he has definitely heard the backlash.
â€œI donâ€™t really have no thoughts,â€ Westbrook said when asked about Bayless. â€œThatâ€™s his job. Heâ€™s supposed to do that. He finds somebody that he wants to talk about and thatâ€™s what he does. He (doesnâ€™t) play so he donâ€™t know. Thatâ€™s how I look at it. I really donâ€™t care. Nobody says that honestly. But when it comes to him, he doesnâ€™t play. He hasnâ€™t played in the NBA. So he wouldnâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on at all.
â€œI just let my play speak for itself, honestly. As a team weâ€™re doing great. Weâ€™re (nearly) tied for the best record in the league. So Iâ€™ll just take the good with the bad and I guess just go with it. I donâ€™t really mind it.â€
Westbrook went on to say that he has never talked with Durant about shot attempts.
â€œThatâ€™s not an issue on our team,â€ Westbrook said. â€œThatâ€™s an issue in the media, but itâ€™s not an issue on our team. So if itâ€™s not an issue on our team I can care less.â€