Report: Kawhi Leonard Chose Paul George over Russell Westbrook for Clippers In 2019

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 2, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 8: Russell Westbrook #0 and Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stand for the National Anthem before the game against the LA Clippers on March 8, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard reportedly spurned Russell Westbrook in favor of Westbrook's then-Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Paul George before signing with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Per Shelburne, Westbrook initiated a conversation with Leonard about teaming up in Los Angeles, but Leonard responded by reaching out to George instead.

The Clippers eventually traded for George and signed Leonard as a free agent to create a top contender in the Western Conference. Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets later that offseason and has since moved to the Washington Wizards and now the Los Angeles Lakers.

Westbrook, a Southern California native and UCLA product, will finally get a homecoming in Los Angeles two years after initially planned.

The previous interaction with Leonard is notable, as he had reportedly looked to play alongside another star.

Shelburne noted in 2019 that Leonard had first called Kevin Durant about signing with the Clippers before he eventually landed with the Brooklyn Nets.

Kawhi had already won NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, but the Lakers had added Anthony Davis that offseason to pair with LeBron James, meaning it would likely take even more to win a championship.

Westbrook and George played one season together in Oklahoma City, and Westbrook was the more established star. The point guard averaged a triple-double for his third straight season and already had one MVP and two scoring titles on his resume. 

Yet George had established himself as a better all-around player. The forward averaged a career-high 28.0 points per game during the 2018-19 season and led the NBA with 2.2 steals per game on the way to a first-team All-Defensive selection.

The Clippers are still seeking their first title, although George was instrumental in helping lead the team to the Western Conference Finals this past season.

We'll never know if L.A. would have been better with a Leonard-Westbrook pairing, but the latter can make the Clippers pay with a big season for the Lakers in 2021-22 after the Wizards agreed to trade Westbrook to L.A. on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.