Unraveling the mystery of when OKC Thunder began shopping Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images) /
2 of 3
OKC Thunder, NBA Power Rankings week 22
Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard OKC Thunder, NBA Power Rankings week 22 (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Kawhi factor and Westbrook tie-in:

The other trade story of consequence as initial reports indicated was Kawhi Leonard pushed the LA Clippers to add a second star to cement his signing. Depending on who you believe failure by LA to bring in that top-rated star could’ve led to Leonard returning to the Raptors who were more than willing to run it back. Masai Ujiri was prepared to offer the full max (term and dollars) re-sign Danny Green plus make other upgrades.

Driven to win the battle the Clippers began to panic as they weren’t sure if the Raptors would retain Leonard especially when they were led to believe Ujiri was also in trade talks for the same player they were seeking – Paul George. In what may one day be considered an urban legend Presti managed to get an unprecedented package from the Clippers who were for all intents and purposes were competing against themselves.

In the end, the deal was done because LA was struck by an even greater fear than Kawhi returning to the Raptors. With Leonard intent on returning to California might he elect to join their Staples neighbors – the Lakers? The fear and potential embarrassment of that scenario resulted in the Clippers caving.

The surprising twist in all of this was the new tidbit that Russell Westbrook was the initial star the OKC Thunder looked to move to the Clippers. This little nugget became known via NBA Insider Shams Charania who shared it via the paid for publication The Athletic.

Again – if the team was intent on running it back then why was Russell the first star served up as an option? Did Presti respond to George’s trade request by recognizing the rebuild was going to occur regardless and seized the opportunity to try to move Westbrook first?

I suspect we’ll never get a full answer from Presti about this matter since the Thunder and Presti are steel traps when it comes to doling out this type of information. Unless the Clippers, Leonard (good luck getting him to drop private information) or an agent speaks to this matter it will remain much like the predictions of various media personnel on where Kawhi was headed- strictly supposition.