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Kevin Durant shoots down the rumor that he told Russell Westbrook he was staying with the Thunder

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There was a false report that Kevin Durant explicitly told Russell Westbrook he was staying in Oklahoma City before going back on his word. Here's how that rumor got started and eventually was squashed.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant's departure from the Thunder was a seismic event in the NBA, so it's not surprising that we're still feeling the ripples. Some details about his free agency process emerged as it was happening, like how Tom Brady's presence had Durant considering Boston and how a call from Jerry West sealed the deal for the Warriors.

This week, we supposedly learned more about how Durant communicated his intentions to now-former teammate Russell Westbrook. But as it turns out, we're still left in the dark because of a botched game of telephone.

During a TrueHoop podcast on ESPN, Thunder reporter Royce Young suggested that Durant explicitly told Westbrook he would stay in Oklahoma City during a dinner days before deciding to leave. Here's how Young characterized that conversation, which occurred before Durant took free-agent meetings with other teams. (Fast forward to the 24:40 mark):

"Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant's sitting there at dinner, telling him 'Hey, I'm coming back, man. Don't worry about it.' And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected."

That definitely makes Durant look bad and led to a torrent of links spreading the comments.

The problem is that Young mischaracterized the situation. In an interview with The Vertical's Shams Charania Friday, Durant flatly denied he said those words.

"It's false. I didn't say that - words about me telling Russell or Nick that I would stay or leave never came out of my mouth. We met as teammates, but no promises came out of it. In this day and age, I can't control anything people claim out there. Someone can go out and say something random right now, and people will believe it.

"I never told Russell or Nick [Collison], ‘All right, guys, I'm coming back to the Thunder' - and then a week later, I decide not to. Never happened. I don't operate like that. I heard people say that story, but it's not the truth."

So why the discrepancy?

In an editorial retracting his original comments, Young said he was attempting to convey the feeling Westbrook took from his dinner with Durant, not what Durant actually said. Based on the tenor of their conversation, Durant's teammates got the sense Durant would stay with the Thunder. At the time, that was the prevalent perception in general.

But in an effort to paint a picture of what happened at that dinner, Young put words in Durant's mouth. Doing so created a perception that Durant actively deceived his former teammates when that never happened.

Thus, it's completely understandable for Durant to angrily set the record straight. Had he actually told Westbrook that he was staying before going back on his word, he would have lied to a teammate, a friend and the entire Thunder organization. It's a completely different matter to offer no explicit promises and merely keep the option to return open, which Durant clearly did until the final moments before making his decision to join the Warriors.

After all of this, all we know is that Durant had dinner with Westbrook and Collison and Westbrook may have been optimistic Durant would be returning despite Durant never promising to do so. In other words: we've learned nothing new.

Westbrook will become a free agent next offseason if he doesn't sign an extension, and he'll have to make a decision on his future sooner than anticipated. Westbrook must either sign an extension to commit to Oklahoma City for the long term, or he'll likely be traded before the season starts so the Thunder don't lose him for nothing in free agency like they lost Durant. But we knew that already.

We might never find out exactly what transpired between Durant and Westbrook before they parted ways, which is fine. We can instead focus on getting ready to watch Durant on one of the best teams ever assembled and seeing Westbrook fully unleashed on his own.

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