“That was a very, very unusual circumstance where the day before the draft we were kind of spitballing some ideas and getting some input,” Sheppard tells FortyEightMinutes and other media in Washington.
“I had a heart-to-heart with Russell and it was important to him that I knew and the Wizards knew he wants to play here.”
Sheppard added that Westbrook’s contributions during his lone season with the Wizards played a role in the front office assisting the former MVP in getting to his top choice of teams.
🚨🏀 𝙉𝘽𝘼 𝙏𝙤𝙥 𝙎𝙝𝙤𝙩 #Giveaway
— FortyEightMinutes (@FortyEightMins) August 15, 2021
“If there was ever an opportunity with the Lakers, that would be the one place. I look at his Hall of Fame career and all he did for us, certainly, for me, I will try to help a guy as long as it helps the Wizards. In this case, we could do a deal and it did help the Wizards.”
Washington received Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and a first-round pick (No. 22 overall, which was eventually flipped for Aaron Holiday and Isaiah Todd) in return for Westbrook.
“If that deal didn’t go through, Russ would still be playing for us and we would all be happy. That opportunity presented itself and it was a great deal for both sides and it made a lot of sense for both of us. I wish him the very best,” Sheppard said.
More From Washington
- Sheppard added that Washington may not be done making moves. “I think you always want to give every opportunity to make the roster better,” the GM said while mentioning that he’s still making calls and talking with other teams.
- Undrafted rookie Kyree Walker will join the Wizards for the club’s training camp this season, reports Jordan Schultz of ESPN (Twitter link). Walker was with the Wizards out in Las Vegas as part of their summer league roster, though he was placed on the COVID-19 health and safety protocol list. The small forward was previously part of Chameleon BX (a yearlong draft preparation program), opting to take that route over heading to Arizona State.
- The Wizards are one of nine NBA teams that are hard-capped, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors details. The team acquired Spencer Dinwiddie via sign-and-trade and utilized part of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, triggering the “hard cap” since Washington was operating as an over-the-cap team in free agency. Washington can not exceed the tap apron, which is set at $143,002,000, for the rest of the year. The team currently has $138, 269, 426 on the books (via Spotrac).