The Los Angeles Lakers could be facing Russell Westbrook as a member of their crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers if not for Kawhi Leonard giving the star the cold shoulder. During a lengthy feature penned by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the NBA insider revealed that Westbrook made a pitch to Leonard to team up together in Los Angeles during free agency in 2019.
Westbrook’s call actually backfired as Leonard used the conversation to help lure Paul George to the Clippers. Leonard called Westbrook’s then Thunder teammate to reveal the All-Star’s plan of bolting Oklahoma City. This ultimately led to George, not Westbrook, joining the Clippers with Leonard.
“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,” Shelburne detailed. “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.”
Westbrook Made a Recruiting Pitch to Leonard to Team Up Together in L.A.
Ultimately, Westbrook landed in Los Angeles two years later with the rival team. During an interview on The Lowe Post podcast, Shelburne elaborated on how Leonard turned down Westbrook’s recruiting pitch.
“So, in the summer of 2019, Russ, just as I would say it was more of a thought bubble early on, just thought, ‘You know, Kawhi wants to get back to L.A,’” Shelburne explained. “He was deciding between the Raptors, the Lakers and the Clippers. We had all been hearing that the Clippers were in the lead, it just took him actually doing it for us to fully believe it, right? But Russ calls Kawhi in that summer and says, ‘Hey, let’s play together. Let’s get back to L.A. together.’ …He [Kawhi] thinks about it, they have a polite conversation, and he doesn’t really have an interest in playing with Russ. It’s just a ‘Cool, thanks, appreciate the idea, but I don’t think it will work.’”
Leonard Used Westbrook’s Call to Help Recruit George to the Clippers
The Lakers-Clippers rivalry matchups just got a little more interesting as Westbrook is sure to remember Leonard’s rejection. Not only did Leonard not want to play with Westbrook, but he used their conversation to help convince George (Westbrook’s teammate at the time) to request a trade from the Thunder.
“So, Kawhi’s not interested, and rather than just sitting on it, you know, you don’t always have to tell everybody, he uses it,” Shelburne added. “I’ve heard he called not just Paul George afterwards. He called some other people, he called some other people, let’s just leave it at that. He calls Paul George and says, ‘Hey, I just got a call from your guy [Westbrook]. We should go play together in L.A., because if you don’t, you might get left behind in Oklahoma City.’ And Paul George goes, ‘What? I’m sorry, what?’ And this is kind of what starts this entire domino effect.”