Nine-time NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook is on his third team in three seasons, joining the Los Angeles Lakers this summer in a blockbuster five-team trade that involved nine players, two draft picks and a pick swap. Most assumed that Westbrook, who reportedly had previously asked out of Oklahoma City and Houston, requested a trade from the Washington Wizards.
However, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard set the record straight earlier this week, saying that while Westbrook was open to a trade, he never forced the front office’s hand. An L.A. native, Westbrook stressed that he would love to play for his hometown Lakers, but also made it clear that the other Los Angeles NBA team was not an option.
“Russell actually never asked to move on,” Sheppard said, via NBC Sports Washington. “He just said, ‘If I can get to the Lakers, that’d be something I would love to do. If not, I’ll be back here.’ I said, ‘What about the Clippers?’ He said, ‘Hell no.’ “
It’s a funny and interesting detail that Sheppard elected to include, and it highlights the rift between Lakers fans and Clippers fans that persists in Southern California, particularly since both teams have concurrently reached title contender status. But as for Westbrook being traded to the Clippers, it’s likely a moot point.
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In order to match Westbrook’s salary, the Clippers would have probably had to surrender Westbrook’s former OKC teammate Paul George, who they signed to a four-year, $190 million extension last December. After George led the Clippers to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, it’s hard to imagine owner Steve Ballmer and the front office wanting to swap him for Westbrook, who would be a curious fit next to Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the roster.
While it’s unlikely the Clippers would have made such a deal, it’s still funny that Westbrook would quickly and adamantly reject a potential trade to a championship contender. With Leonard’s status up in the air this season following knee surgery, Westbrook surely felt that teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis for his favorite team growing up was the most direct path to his first NBA title.
In return, the Wizards got several starting-caliber NBA players, including Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Lakers, along with point guard Spencer Dinwiddie in a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
“Russell was very direct about, ‘hey, I want to win a championship. I don’t know how many more of these I have.’ LeBron is a dear friend of his, Anthony Davis, different things, he’s from L.A., grew up a Lakers fan. I get all that,” Sheppard said. “Russell was very, very professional in everything that he did. We sat, we got together and I just said, ‘You know what, I’ll help you with the Lakers if it’s great for us.’ And it was great for us.”