Following the Los Angeles Lakers' exit in the first round of the playoffs, the front office explored trading for stars such as Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook.
LeBron james set up a war room of his own at his house for some in-person player meetings while leading remote communications in other conversations.
Those talks and others led the Lakers to the conclusion that Westbrook was the best solution. Westbrook came away expecting a trade to the Lakers, but the efforts were stymied by the Washington Wizards' refusal to make him available.
“No one thought that Russ would get out,” said one source close to the discussions told The Athletic.
On the morning of the draft, Rob Pelinka decided he had no choice but to move on to their backup plan of Buddy Hield.
Westbrook heard the Lakers were ready to move on.
“That set Russ off,” one source said. “All he wanted, by any means, was to be a Laker.”
Westbrook then called Ted Leonsis for a personal favor of finding a way for him to be traded to the Lakers.
“(Westbrook) took control of his situation,” one involved source said.
The Wizards softened their stance and Tommy Sheppard called Pelinka to initiate conversations that culminated in a trade.