The 2019 offseason was one of the most exciting times in recent NBA history, with a couple of superstars switching locations and teaming up to drastically change the landscape of the NBA. But the biggest move of the entire offseason happened in Los Angeles. An earthquake hit the city that day, but it was not as shattering as the breaking news of Kawhi Leonard joining the Clippers and bringing Paul George along in a trade with the Thunder. Just like that, the Los Angeles Clippers became a force to reckon with, having two elite players on their team.
There was a lot of talk and negotiation going on behind the scenes between multiple stars players, as no NBA insiders knew about the deal that was cooking all along. That deal left Westbrook alone in OKC, where he didn't stay for too long as he also got traded to the Rockets. But what you may not know is Westbrook was also looking to go home and become a Clipper.
While Kawhi Leonard was still a free agent, deciding between staying with the Raptors or signing with one of the LA teams, Westbrook decided to contact Leonard in hopes of teaming up. But Kawhi would hold off on that call and decide to call Paul George, Westbrook's teammate in Oklahoma. A slick move, rejecting Westbrook and stealing his most valuable teammate into a position he originally wanted. According to a report from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, this is how it all went down.
“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.”
Ramona Shelburne, ESPN
Paul George didn't take too long to get convinced, as he also wanted to go to Los Angeles. This was the perfect opportunity to compete for a championship while playing in the big market. Sam Presti would grant his wish and send him to LA for a pretty hefty trade package consisted, of course, numerous picks and most notably Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
On the other side, while Westbrook wanted to go home because of his family and the chance to compete for a title, he ended up getting played and used by Kawhi. But after all, it worked out, as Russell will be playing next season in Los Angeles, but with the Lakers. A perfect opportunity to get revenge on Kawhi and George for leaving him out of the equation. The LA rivalry got even more intense and fun.