The Russell Westbrook, Paul George-led Oklahoma City Thunder had an entertaining 2019 summer, as they ended an era by trading the two All-Star following a couple of underperforming seasons.
While George landed in Los Angeles to team up with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers, Westbrook found his way to Houston, linking up with a known face, James Harden. That experiment didn't work for Westbrook, who then was traded to the Washington Wizards and more recently, to the Los Angeles Lakers.
He could have returned to L.A. two years ago, taking Paul George's place on the Clippers. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Kawhi Leonard didn't want to team up with Russ, which led to PG13 joining The Klaw in SoCal.
Talking with The Athletic’s Bill Oram (over Zoom), Westbrook went on a big rant on the media, and the reports that suggested he reached out to Leonard and the then Toronto Raptors star rejected him.
Via Clutch Points:
Oram: Hey Russ, on the PG front, before he ended up with the Clippers, there was some reporting that you had some interest maybe in joining up with Kawhi. I’m just curious how you look back at it, and how you think that story has played out for the two of you since that moment.
Russ: Reports from who?
Oram: I think there were a couple of different reports over this summer that you had maybe had some conversations with Kawhi and then that was used maybe to facilitate PG coming to the Clippers.
Russ: I know. You didn’t tell me who it was from. If you can’t tell me who you got it from then I can’t answer the question.
Oram: Like what outlets?
Russ: Yeah. I want to know who you got it from.
Oram: I think there was an ESPN report, there was an Athletic report. It’s been out there.
Russ: I know. From who, though?
Oram: Uhh. I don’t have the in—
Russ: Ahh. Well, then I don’t got an answer for you, neither. You can’t tell me who you got it from, then I don’t really know.
Oram: So is that not true?
Russ: I asked you who you got it from, you can’t give me an answer, right? You gotta find a different question.
Oram: That was a different question.
Russ: Well, sorry for you Bill.
Oram: Is it true?
Russ: Where do you get your question from? Who’s your source?
Oram: I got it from reading about the NBA.
Russ: OK, and who did they get it from, do you know?
Oram: They got it from the people they talked to.
Russ: And who was that?
Oram: For all I know it was you. Was it you?
Russ (laughs): I don’t talk to the media, can’t be me.
Dan Woike (Los Angeles Times): Honestly, were you interested in coming to play in LA with Kawhi Leonard?
Westbrook's tirade against the media continued, as he made it clear nobody must talk on behalf of him. He said there's no communication with any outlet, which made things crazier for the 2017 NBA MVP.
Russ: You asked me a question based off a story that someone else had written, but you don’t know where they got it from, or you don’t know if it’s true.
Woike: I would say the erosion of relationships between athletes and reporters has made this awkward.
Russ: I’m talking about for me. I don’t know what nobody else do. I have no relations with no media outlet where they come to me and go, ‘here, Russ, I got a source for you.’ That’s not what I do, and now you guys know that.
Reporter: I understand that. Like I said, I think that’s where, like, people speak for you or speak around you and that’s what happens.
Russ: I don’t let nobody speak for me. If you don’t hear it from me, don’t go with, ‘the source said.’ Sources will get you in trouble.
Kyle Goon (SCNG): Don’t you think it’s fair that now that reports are out there, that we come to you and ask?
Russ: You can ask. It’s how you ask it, though. It’s how you ask the question. Where you get it from. That’s very important. How you ask it, it’s different, it’s very direct. Bill asked it with a bunch of b*llshit in the question. There’s just a difference. You ask me very direct, ‘Hey, you know duh duh duh?’ Simple. I can tell you ‘nah’ or I can keep it to myself.
Woike: To be fair, you didn’t really answer the original question.
Russ: I didn’t, and he didn’t answer mine either. So, if Bill don’t know where he got his question from, his source from, then I guess I don’t know anything either.
Reporter: It’s just like, as we deal with agents and stuff like that, that’s where this shit happens. This is like part of it.
Cross talk and laughter around the room.
Russ: It’s just important that you know where your sources of information are coming from. I understand that there are a lot of sources. Ramona reported a story about Kawhi. I never talked to Ramona.
Ultimately, somebody asked Westbrook that maybe the info came from a different source, the other player involved in the rumor. He didn't believe that, shutting down the whole thing.
Reporter: What if Kawhi said it?
Russ: I doubt it.
Back in 2019, Westbrook was reportedly close to teaming up with Kawhi, but in Toronto. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Raptors studied trading for Westbrook and Paul George to keep Kawhi on the team, but that never came to fruition.
In September, the Washington Wizards GM also said that Russ had no desire of joining the Clippers, who lost Kawhi due to a serious injury in the 2021 playoff. But, the point guard quickly shut down that idea, making it clear he intended to play with the Lakers.
With that said, and all the things Westbrook stated while talking with reporters, it seems like he never tried to play with Kawhi Leonard, let alone join the Clippers. He's finding his touch with the Los Angeles Lakers now, improving his level every game. Lakers and Clippers clash tonight and Russ will probably try to send a message of how much he dislikes the Clips.
The Lakers need to win games and a victory against their crosstown rivals would be great for them.