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Thunder guard Russell Westbrook stands behind criticism of Utah Jazz fans

The Jazz’s Game 6 victory not only eliminates the Thunder, but it also raises questions about their offseason decisions and future together.

USA TODAY Sports

So much for sleeping on it being the cure-all for consternation.

A day after the Utah Jazz bounced Oklahoma City from the first round of the NBA playoffs, Thunder star and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook doubled down on his unsavory view of Jazz fans.

“I said my piece last night, and I meant everything I said,” Westbrook told reporters on Saturday.

No one should be surprised that the league’s most intense player wasn’t about to back down.

To recap, Westbrook had multiple run-ins with Jazz fans on Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. When a fan hollered something at him as he walked to the locker room at halftime, Westbrook stopped abruptly, turned and yelled his displeasure. After the game, when his 46-point, 10-rebound outing wasn’t enough to take down a Jazz team that was led by rookie Donovan Mitchell (38 points), Westbrook swiped at a fan who was leaning over the railing to videotape his exit.

Afterward, Westbrook had no apologies for his actions.

“I don’t confront fans, fans confront me,” Westbrook told reporters. “Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. It’s truly disrespectful. (They) talk about your families, your kids. It’s just a disrespect to the game and I think it’s something that needs to be brought up.

“I’m tired of just going out and playing and letting fans say what the hell they want to say. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t just come up to me and say anything crazy, because I don’t play that (expletive).”

While Westbrook didn’t specify whether there were personal insults in the two interactions that were caught on video, ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez reported that the halftime situation involved the fan saying “How’s your ankles?”

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch defended Jazz fans on Saturday and told USA TODAY Sports that he’s sure Westbrook “sometimes can take things the wrong way too.’’

“I have no doubt that some people can act improperly,” Hatch said. “But I also have no doubt that the vast majority of Utah fans are pretty decent people.’’

From Westbrook on down, the Thunder had all sorts of reasons to being frustrated as the series came to a close. It had been nearly four months since Westbrook said his free agency pitch to five-time All-Star Paul George would be a championship, and here they were failing to advance to the second round. George, who missed 14 of 16 shots and had just five points in the finale, has long been known to have interest in signing with his hometown Lakers. If he leaves, it would serve as a serious blow to the organization that lost former MVP Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016.

On Saturday, Westbrook addressed George’s situation and contrasted it with Durant’s free agency.

“Obviously, Kevin was here for many years and then decided to leave, and Paul’s only been here for some months,” Westbrook said. “That’s a decision that Paul will eventually make.

“But like I said before, our friendship and our bond we’ve created together is more important to me, and that’s what I truly care about. Me knowing Paul, like I said before, he definitely wants to be here. Through free agency or for any player, it’s always a decision up to them what’s best for their family.”

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