After being traded from the Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook is excited to be playing his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. But Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard recently made it clear that Westbrook did not orchestrate his move to Los Angeles.
Sheppard said Westbrook would've agreed to return to Washington for another season had a trade to the Lakers been unavailable. Sheppard said it was "Lakers or bust" for Westbrook, as he had no desire to play for the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Russell actually never asked to move on," Sheppard said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington (via RealGM). "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.’"
Westbrook, who grew up in the Los Angeles area and played for UCLA, will be playing for his fourth franchise in four seasons. After spending the first 11 years of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook played one season each for the Houston Rockets and the Wizards.
Westbrook helped lead Washington to its first playoff appearance since the 2017-18 season, averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in his career. He posted career highs of 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists to go with 22.2 points.
Last season, the Clippers finished fourth in the Western Conference with a record of 47-25. Led by perennial All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the franchise reached the conference finals for the first time in its 51-year history, twice overcoming 0-2 series deficits in the earlier rounds. They were eliminated from the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns.
Westbrook is still in search of the first NBA championship of his career. Playing alongside Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook knows this season is his best chance to earn that elusive title.
"We both understand and know what it takes to be able to win, but Bron understands what it takes to get to that next level," Westbrook said on Tuesday.