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Report: Russell Westbrook didn’t try to recruit Paul George back to Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 19: Russell Westbrook #0 and Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder speak to the media after Game Three of Round One against the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 19, 2019 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

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When Paul George re-signed with the Thunder last year, Russell Westbrook threw a party.

When George requested a trade from the Thunder to join Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers, Westbrook…

Royce Young of ESPN:

Russell Westbrook didn’t try to change Paul George’s mind. That’s 100 percent assured in my mind, that Russell Westbrook didn’t try to re-recruit Paul George. And a lot of that had to do with the fact it was Russell Westbrook’s ticket out of town, as well.

Westbrook and the Thunder were stuck.

Westbrook had built his image around loyalty to Oklahoma City, especially in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure. It would have been difficult for him to request a trade without looking at least somewhat hypocritical.

The Thunder have lost in the first round three straight years. With an expensive roster, it would have been difficult to upgrade. Westbrook prevented them from bottoming out and rebuilding in the short term. Hhis huge contract presented long-term problems.

George’s exit provided perfect cover for both sides. Westbrook now joins a potential title contender in the Rockets, and Oklahoma City gets even more draft picks for its next era.

I’m unconvinced plotting his own escape was Westbrook’s sole motivation, though.

He might have just wanted to respect the wishes of a friend. Plenty of players try not to interfere with other the desires of other players, even valued teammates. (However, Westbrook got more involved with George’s decision last year.)

Another potential reason for Westbrook’s approach: The previous time he tried to woo back a star teammate, he got egg on his face.