The Russell Westbrook trade from the Washington Wizards to the Los Angeles Lakers last week came together pretty quickly.
Apparently, there’s a reason for this. The former NBA MVP had been discussing a potential move to Southern California with Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis for some time now. The idea was to build a super team in Los Angeles after an ugly first-round exit in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
All the while, Russell Westbrook and his Wizards team was also coming off a first-round exit at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. Teaming up with star Bradley Beal, Russ seemingly returned to earlier-career form by averaging a triple-double.
Even then, it became apparent that the fit in D.C. was not going to work long-term. Westbrook’s push to be moved from the nation’s capital out west added another layer to this. Behind the scenes, Wizards and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was working on a new deal for NHL star Alexander Ovechkin.
In talking about the two situations, the embattled Wizards owner took time out of his day to absolutely blast Russ and other NBA players. It was not subtle, either.
“We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers,” Leonsis said, via ESPN. “And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn’t help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here’s a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, wanted to be traded, went to Houston, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded and is now in L.A. He’s an unbelievably great person and an unbelievably great player. But that’s the difference between the NBA and the NHL, I suppose.”
With the Capitals since all the way back in 2005, Ovechkin has morphed into one of the greatest NHL players of all-time. He went through ups and downs with the organization, but always stayed loyal. That was rewarded with a five-year, $47.5 million extension last week. The backdrop here was Westbrook seemingly requesting to be traded to the Lakers.
Is the Wizards’ owner right in blasting Russell Westbrook?
There’s a few different layers to this. Westbrook played with the Thunder for 11 full seasons before being moved to the Houston Rockets ahead of the 2019-20 season.
It became apparent in his one year with Houston that a relationship with James Harden was not going to work. The former NBA MVP then asked out, and was ultimately traded to Washington in exchange for another bloated contract in that of John Wall.
The Wizards were desperate to move off the injury-plagued Wall. Meanwhile, no trade market took place for Westbrook at the time. In the end, an awkward union between Washington and the future Hall of Fame guard took hold.
At 32 years old and no longer in his prime, there was an opportunity for Westbrook to compete for what would be his first NBA title. Not only that, it was an opportunity for the Southern California native and UCLA product to return home.
Perhaps, Leonsis is being a bit shortsighted here.