Did Kawhi Leonard use Russell Westbrook to help the Los Angeles Clippers secure the services of Paul George? And in doing so, did the Clips superstar inadvertently assist the Los Angeles Lakers in landing Russell Westbrook a few years later? According to an August 2 report by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, that’s exactly what happened.
Per Shelburne, during the summer of 2019, when both Los Angeles-based teams were vying for the services of Leonard, Westbrook placed a call to Kawhi in the hopes of playing together in L.A., where they’re both originally from. Kawhi “didn’t just take the call as one native son of Los Angeles to another, ponder it and file it away,” Shelburne wrote. “He used it.”
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Kawhi Seemingly Preferred to Play With PG
Shelburne says that instead of seriously considering playing with Westbrook, Leonard chose instead to pick up the phone himself to call and recruit Paul George. It didn’t take long for both PG and Kawhi to end up together, playing for the Clips.
Here’s how Shelburne says it went down:
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. … 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 began a journey that would take him to three new teams over the next two seasons, each time moving farther from both the NBA championship he’d been chasing his whole career — and his hometown of Los Angeles. But he never gave up hope of fulfilling those goals. … Westbrook’s homecoming trade to the Lakers … wasn’t two weeks in the making. It was two years in the making.
Woah. If this is true — and there’s no reason to suspect that it isn’t — Kawhi made a huge decision that directly impacted his future and that of the Clippers — and it set off a chain of events that led Westbrook directly to the Lakers this summer.
Analysts Say PG Move Had ‘Domino Effect’ Around the League
Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated broke down how Kawhi may have created a “domino effect” of sorts when he called PG instead of hooking up with Westbrook:
– Kawhi gets PG to join him with the Clippers
– Russell Westbrook heads to Houston Rockets
– Chris Paul goes to Oklahoma City
– James Harden heads to Brooklyn
– Russell Westbrook goes to Washington
– Chris Paul gets to his first NBA Finals with Phoenix Suns
– Russell Westbrook joins the Lakers
Leonard must have realized he had a shot at recruiting George, and he took it. The rest is history, but both Clippers and Lakers fans have to wonder what might have been had Kawhi called Russ back. Alas, we’ll never know.
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