Westbrook on Harden: Ball only friend on court


HOUSTON — Russell Westbrook and James Harden are close. Their relationship goes back way before their Oklahoma City days, when they were teammates from 2009 to ’12.

But when they step on the court Sunday night for Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series between the Thunder and Houston Rockets, friendship takes a backseat. At least in Westbrook’s eyes.

“When I get on the floor, I got one friend, and that’s the basketball,” Westbrook said. “I’ve been like that since I was a little kid. My dad told me that when I was younger, ‘You got one friend and your friend is Spalding. At the time maybe it was Wilson or some other s—.’

“Whatever the ball is, that’s who my friend is.”

Harden and Westbrook actually knew each other growing up in Los Angeles and played at the same Boys and Girls Club. They text and talk often during the season. It was Harden who ran over to Westbrook at the All Star Game in New Orleans, when he warmed up on a different basket than former teammate Kevin Durant.

“When I get on the floor I got one friend, and that’s the basketball.”

Russell Westbrook

“Since 10 years old. That’s never gonna change,” Harden said of his friendship with Westbrook on Sunday morning after the Rockets’ shootaround in advance of Game 1.

Westbrook and Harden are also two of the leading MVP candidates this season. The results of that voting won’t be known until after the season, when the awards are presented at the first NBA Awards Show on TNT in New York on June 26.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Harden said of the MVP race. “I’m focused on the playoffs. We got a game here tonight. That’s the most important thing.”

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