Kawhi Leonard Apparently Used Russell Westbrook as Leverage to Team Up With Paul George
By Liam McKeone
Russell Westbrook, against all odds, is now a Los Angeles Laker. Or at least he will be when the trade can officially be executed come August 6. It was an unexpected move by the Lakers that might not pay the dividends they're looking for, but we can be 100 percent positive that it will be entertaining as hell.
Westbrook's homecoming is now everybody's favorite narrative to discuss and write about, even on the verge of actual free agency, set to begin tonight at 6 p.m. ET. Ramona Shelburne over at ESPN wrote a lengthy piece published today about how Westbrook has been trying to play in his hometown of Los Angeles for a few years now. She gave us all one very interesting tidbit that sheds some light on Kawhi Leonard, of all people.
Shelburne reports that Westbrook saw his chance to get back to Southern California in free agency of 2019, when Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. He called Leonard to gauge the reigning Finals MVP's interest in teaming up for the woebegone franchise. Leonard then used Westbrook's interest to entice Paul George to ask the Oklahoma City Thunder for a trade, leading to their partnership in L.A. Per ESPN:
So in the summer of 2019, while the rest of the NBA world fretted over who reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard would choose between the Toronto Raptors and his hometown Los Angeles Lakers or LA Clippers, Westbrook was coming up with a plan to collaborate with him on a homecoming.
Westbrook had become a father of three the previous November, and while he'd made a home and carved a Hall of Fame legacy in Oklahoma City, the chance to live and play in Los Angeles, where grandparents and his large extended family and friends could visit every day, held deep appeal.
Teaming up with Leonard would be the fastest way there, so he placed the call, according to multiple sources. But Leonard didn't just take the call as one native son of Los Angeles to another, ponder it and file it away.
He used it.
According to multiple sources, Leonard then called Westbrook's teammate in Oklahoma City, Paul George, and told him he'd rather team up with him on a homecoming.
That's cutthroat maneuvering by a guy who has made it his mission to be as boring as possible in the public eye, huh? He not only turned down Westbrook, he used the man as a means to his own end and blew up Westbrook's team in the process. Cold-blooded on and off the court, it would seem.
That decision by Leonard resulted in a domino effect that led to not only Westbrook's trades from OKC to Houston and then Houston to Washington, but also the James Harden trade and the Brooklyn Big 3, OKC's pick-hoarding strategy, the Clippers becoming everyone's favorite team to hate with no title to show for it, and finally the Lakers trading for Westbrook.
How different things could have been. Westbrook's first game against the Clippers should be electric.