By Michael Kinney
When the curtain came down on the 2016-17 NBA season, there wasn’t a ton of hope surrounding the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. Despite Russell Westbrook earning the MVP and setting a record for triple doubles, the ease in which they were taken out of the playoffs by the Houston Rockets erased the good feelings that had been built up in regular season.
When General Manager Sam Presti, coach Billy Donovon, Westbrook and the rest of the team completed their exit interviews and left for the offseason, no one outside or inside the franchise knew what was in store. No one saw the momentous offseason moves the Thunder would make that brought Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to one of the smallest markets in the NBA.
When the Thunder take the court for the first time Thursday against the New York Knicks at Chesapeake Energy Arena, they will be one of the most captivating and most interesting team in the league. But, what remains to be seen, is will the moves Oklahoma City made be enough to compete for an NBA championship.
For the central figures who the Thunder will revolve around this season, the stars seem to have come together to give them a shot at winning the ultimate prize.
“We get criticized a lot for being friendly and not being able to do it alone. Honestly, in this league, it’s hard to do it alone,” said George. “You know, Russ averages a triple-double, and, you know, he couldn’t get out of the first round. That’s a special talent and a guy that did everything he could to win. But you just need, you know, you need guys of that stature and that level to be able to help and create something special. It’s just that era where you’ve got to face teams that are going to have two or three guys that can take over games and be iconic to this league. So, I do. I do think you have to have that to compete in this league.”
Along with George and Anthony, the Thunder also brought in Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson to a team that went 47-35 last year. Other than the defending champion Golden State Warriors, it can easily be said the Thunder have the deepest roster in the Western Conference.
But that doesn’t mean the Thunder do not have any questions surrounding them as they enter the season. One of the biggest is how do three players who are as great as Westbrook, Anthony and George split up one ball?
“There’s a balance from the standpoint that you want to be able to allow those guys to do some of those things because they’re really good at it,” Donovan said. “They understand the importance is going to be how well we can move the basketball.”
As of now, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for the players involved. All have said they will do what is best for the team and see no problems sharing the rock.
“Offensively, it is about guys being aggressive and not trying to be overly passive, trying to make the right play all the time,” Anthony said. “Essentially playing basketball, letting it flow, letting it happen.”
For Anthony, playing the Knicks in the opener has special meaning. He was the headliner in New York for xx years before being traded to Oklahoma City in the offseason.
“This is an important game for me because it’s an opportunity to go out there and close that chapter,” Anthony said. “I don’t think that chapter has been closed yet. I think (Thursday), running out there with a different uniform kind of closes that chapter.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com. Story first ran at The Yukon Review