Following their disappointing title defense in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers managed to kickstart the offseason with a blockbuster trade for Washington Wizards superstar Russell Westbrook.
While the sudden influx of star power is nothing new to Hollywood, it was a prime example of an L.A. team taking advantage of the pipeline to D.C. as of late. Not only is Westbrook gearing up for a homecoming, but the Dodgers also bolstered their pitching rotation with the acquisition of Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals.
Of course, not all is lost in the nation’s capital after news of the Washington Capitals signing left wing Alex Ovechkin to a five-year $47.5 million contract coincided with the Westbrook trade. The recent turn of events has seemingly left Wizards and Capitals’ team owner Ted Leonsis questioning the latter’s loyalty.
According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, Leonsis threw some shade toward Westbrook while reflecting on the Ovechkin deal:
“We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers,” Leonsis said. “And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn’t help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here’s a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, wanted to be traded, went to Houston, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded and is now in L.A. He’s an unbelievably great person and an unbelievably great player. But that’s the difference between the NBA and the NHL, I suppose.”
There is no denying that NBA players are more likely to be on the move than NHL players these days, and Westbrook has bounced around quite a bit during the prime years of his career. However, there is a stark difference between where his loyalty lies and that of Ovechkin.
The latter was selected first overall by the Capitals in the 2004 NHL Draft and spent his career chasing that elusive Stanley Cup. He finally managed to lead them to their first championship in franchise history in 2018, so it makes sense that he would be rewarded with a deal that allows him to retire with the team.
The nature of Westbrook’s arrival in D.C. was a viable replacement for the oft-injured John Wall. However, the team struggled to find its footing as it squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth seed before being eliminated in the opening round by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.
Westbrook saw the opportunity for his career to come full circle by returning to his hometown to secure a ring with the Lakers.