Oklahoma City Thunder parted ways with their All-Star duo Paul George and Russell Westbrook this offseason swiftly transforming themselves from a playoff contender to a lottery team. And while many believed that this process was kicked off by George’s trade request, it looks like the truth might be somewhat different.
George made a trade request shortly after the start of free agency and ended up being dealt to Los Angeles Clippers, where he teamed up with Kawhi Leonard. After that, Russell Westbrook also left OKC, heading to Houston Rockets. This officially marked the start of a rebuilding period for the Thunder, who saw first-round playoff exits in the previous three years.
Now, Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers claims that OKC wanted to “break their team up” all along after this lack of success which made it easier for his team to acquire Paul George.
“We showed [Leonard] everybody else, and he didn’t want to hear it.” – Rivers told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times while guiding him through their free agency meeting with Leonard. “He just stayed on Paul George, so after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.’ We did know that Oklahoma City wanted to break their team up, so that helped, but we didn’t know if we could get him.”
Oklahoma City Thunder managed to pick up a bunch of draft picks from the Clippers in a George trade, while also getting forward Danilo Gallinari and talented point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Still, they are not expected to be any good anytime soon and will most likely spend the next several years at the bottom of the Western Conference.