The Wizards’ decision to trade Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason may have been in the best interest of the star point guard, but Washington GM Tommy Sheppard attests that Westbrook was “professional” and never demanded a trade from the team.
“I really have to make sure the record is straight on that,” Sheppard said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller. “Russell actually never asked to move on. He just said, ‘If I can get to the Lakers, that’d be something I would love to do. If not, I’ll be back here.’ I said, ‘What about the Clippers?’ He said, ‘Hell no.’ So Russell was happy being here and we were very grateful for him being here.”
Westbrook, 32, was born and raised in the Los Angeles suburbs. He grew up rooting for the Lakers, attended college at UCLA and remained attached to the area throughout his NBA career. Given the opportunity to play alongside LeBron James and compete for a championship with his hometown team, Westbrook impelled the Wizards to explore a trade.
On the day of the NBA Draft, an agreement was in place: Westbrook was headed to LA, with Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope headlining Washington’s return. The trade ended up being much more complicated than that, but Westbrook got his wish and the Wizards received a package they saw suitable for a player of his caliber.
“You’re looking at the season Russell had, it’s a travesty he wasn’t All-NBA as well,” Sheppard said. “Bradley [Beal] deserved it more than anybody but I thought Russell, he should’ve had his flowers. The guy averaged a triple-double. He helped take this team to the playoffs when we were sitting pretty much in a situation where, look, I thought the season was over midway through.”
As the Wizards move forward without Westbrook, the former MVP’s mark on the organization remains.
“I can’t say it enough that the footprints he put in here, it was just like when Truth was here before that,” Sheppard said. “When Paul Pierce came through, his impact on this organization top to bottom was profound and I can’t thank Russell enough.”