The Los Angeles Lakers made the splash of the offseason by completing a blockbuster trade with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is now playing for his fourth different team in the last four seasons, although this is arguably the best situation of them all as he gets the opportunity to play in his hometown while also having a legit shot at winning his first championship.
The trade talks between the Lakers and Wizards were interesting because the deal seemingly came out of nowhere on the day of the draft. The Lakers were on the verge of acquiring Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings before Westbrook reportedly went to the Wizards front office and asked to be traded to the Lakers.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard recently gave some clarification on how it all went down, stating that Westbrook wanted to be traded to his hometown Lakers but was unwilling to be moved to the L.A. Clippers, via Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports:
“I really have to make sure the record is straight on that,” Sheppard said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller. “Russell actually never asked to move on. 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.’ So Russell was happy being here and we were very grateful for him being here.”
Westbrook not wanting to play for the Clippers doesn’t come as a huge surprise considering it was Paul George who left him out to dry in Oklahoma City after Kawhi Leonard recruited him to the Clippers.
Additionally, Westbrook grew up a Lakers fan in L.A. so he is aware of the differences between playing for the two franchises, one of which is beloved in the city and the other that hasn’t been embraced on the same level.
Now that Westbrook is playing for the Lakers and his unwillingness to play for the Clippers has come to light, it should only add more fuel to the growing rivalry between the two L.A. franchises. Leonard is expected to miss a majority of this season with a knee injury, but once he’s healthy it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers and Clippers again fighting for supremacy in the Western Conference.
James wants Westbrook to be himself
One way that the Lakers are helping Westbrook adjust to his new team is by telling him to just be himself, which LeBron James made clear he wants to happen.
“As far as Russ, we need Russ to be Russ,” James said at Lakers Media Day. “We don’t need Russ to change for anybody, that’s why we got him. That’s our job to all help him feel comfortable in our system and he’s gonna be as dynamic as he’s always been. So I look forward to that.”
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