As the bombshell news broke that the Los Angeles Clippers had pulled off an incredible double swoop for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, questions arose as to the future of Russell Westbrook and his role in the saga.
Free agent Leonard is reportedly set to join the Clippers fresh from his championship-winning season with the Toronto Raptors, while George will join him from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade that will see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari head the other way while the Thunder will also secure a host of future picks from the Clippers.
The seismic news also leaves questions over George’s soon-to-be-former teammate Westbrook, amid speculation that a rift between the pair helped pave the way for George to quit the team.
If that is the case, it would add to the acrimonious departure of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors from Oklahoma City in 2016, also amid reports of discontent with Westbrook.
On this occasion, George appeared to attempt to play down any suggestion that a rift with Westbrook had played a role in his departure, sharing a quote that said “I am not accepting any Westbrook slander!!!!”
Some – most prominently Oklahoma fans – have backed Westbrook, branding George a “snake” for making the switch.
Whatever the case, there will be serious questions now for the Thunder and Westbrook over where they stand.
The 30-year-old is a verified superstar: an eight-time All-Star and former MVP. But there are suggestions being raised as to whether the Thunder – with so many future picks now in the bag from trading George to the Clippers – will seek to overhaul their roster and free up some space by moving on one of the league’s biggest earners.
Fans meanwhile, have also been questioning whether the Thunder would want to keep a superstar who has supposedly helped to facilitate the departure of yet another key player from the team.
The Leonard-George switch to LA has raised many intriguing prospects for the NBA – not least the future of Russell Westbrook.