Perhaps Russell Westbrook would be suiting up for the L.A. Clippers and not the Los Angeles Lakers when they face each other Friday if things played out differently in the past.
In August, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports) reported Westbrook once called Kawhi Leonard to discuss the possibility of him playing for the Clippers in something of a homecoming.
According to Shelburne, Leonard then called Paul George, who was teammates with Westbrook on the Oklahoma City Thunder at the time, and said he would rather play with the versatile forward.
"Man, listen, I never sit back and call anybody," Westbrook told reporters Thursday when asked if there was a time when he was interested in joining Leonard with the Clippers. "I sit back and wait, and figure out if somebody wants to play with me, and then cool, that conversation can happen. But those private conversations that are had, I keep that to myself, so I have no answer as it pertains to that."
Oklahoma City ultimately traded George to the Clippers and Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in July 2019.
Westbrook spent one season in Houston and lost to the Lakers in the second round before he was traded to a Washington Wizards squad that lost in the first round last season. The Clippers lost in the second round and then the Western Conference Finals in George's two seasons to this point.
Imagining where the Clippers would be with Westbrook is fascinating, but it's guesswork to say they'd be better off with one or the other. George is not as ball-dominant and is a versatile defender who can take over games on both ends, but there is some positional redundancy with George and Leonard that there wouldn't be with Westbrook.
The UCLA product ultimately ended up back in Los Angeles when the Lakers traded for him before this season.
It has been an up-and-down start to the campaign for the star-studded Lakers, who were 9-10 at one point but have won three of four to move into the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
The Westbrook-George-Leonard angle won't be the only major storyline in Friday's showdown.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported LeBron James was cleared from the league's health and safety protocols and can return because he tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times after testing positive.