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Report: Despite rumors, the Clippers were never interested in Westbrook

With John Wall reportedly working with the Houston Rockets for a trade, Michael Smith and Michael Holley discuss possible teams for Wall and why the Philadephia 76ers could work.

Russell Westbrook has been linked to the Clippers a couple of times. The first was in 2019, when Westbrook wanted out of Oklahoma City and called Kawhi Leonard about teaming up, but Leonard turned around and called Paul George — Westbrook’s teammate on the Thunder — and used Westbrook’s interest to leverage George to come to the Clippers.

But the real buzz came a year later when the Rockets were looking to trade Westbrook and rumors linked the Clippers to him again.

That second part was not true — the Clippers had zero interest in Westbrook last year, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported on his Lowe Post podcast (hat tip Real GM).

“The Clippers were never interested in Russell Westbrook,” Lowe said. “They were a rumored Russell Westbrook trade in a few places whenever that happened. They were never interested. That was never a real thing. I think they value their optionality too much.”

You can bet that quote ends up on the wall in the Lakers’ locker room before a Clippers game this season.

Why do we care whether the Clippers were interested in Westbrook before last season? It’s tied to that last sentence from Lowe and rumors flying around about the Clippers’ interest in John Wall.

Some fans and online media are promoting the idea of Wall jumping to the Clippers while Kawhi Leonard is out recovering from a torn ACL, in theory lifting Los Angeles into the playoffs, then forming a “Big 3" with Leonard and Paul George after that. In reality, how much Wall could lift the Clippers is up for debate. He was solid when he played last season, averaging 20.6 points per game and 6.9 assists a game, and he can still get to the rim, but he shot just 40.4% overall and can’t space the floor from three. Wall is still good, but not an All-Star/All-NBA level player anymore. Add to that the Clippers would have to give up good players to get him (Luke Kennard, Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, and young players/picks), plus there are legitimate injury concerns with Wall (he played just 40 games and missed significant time the past three seasons).

All that comes with a $91.7 million price tag over the next two years — Wall is the second highest paid player in the NBA this season, tied with James Harden.

Bring in Wall and his contract and the Clippers lose roster flexibility, something that has been a hallmark of how Lawrence Frank and the front office have built rosters. Sources have told NBC Sports there isn’t much interest in a Wall trade anywhere in the league, which is why most people expect this to drag out to the trade deadline at least and maybe into next summer.

Maybe the Westbrook to the Clippers rumors are instructive here — a lot of media smoke, but no actual fire. That could be the case with Wall.