Big 3 promise 1 ball is enough
Thunder trio downplay stats, alphadog status
Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have accomplished nearly everything in their basketball careers.
Westbrook is a two-time scoring champion, two-time All-star MVP and the reigning league MVP. Anthony is a 10-time Allstar and three-time Olympic gold medallist. George is a four-time All-star, former most improved player award winner and an Olympic gold medallist.
None of the new Oklahoma City Thunder teammates has an NBA title.
They say that is what drives this version of the NBA’S latest Big Three.
“It’s a different energy, a different focus, a different motivation that myself has, Paul has and Russ has, being that we haven’t won a championship yet in our careers,” Anthony said. “We see that, and that’s our ultimate goal.”
It’s every player’s goal, but few have what it takes to win a title or are willing to make the sacrifices necessary.
Westbrook, who recently signed a reported five-year, $205 million extension with OKC, averaged a triple-double last season and broke Oscar Robertson’s single-season record for tripledoubles in a season with 42. But he didn’t have much help and the Thunder lost to Houston in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Oklahoma City added George in an off-season trade with Indiana, then once the possibility of Anthony leaving New York became real, George helped Anthony add Oklahoma City to his list of possible destinations since he had a no-trade clause in his contract.
“You know, it’s awesome to have guys that want to play alongside you and team up with you and share a mission with you, so we got right to it,’’ George said. “The same for Russ. Those two are pretty close. We all were kind of in the loop on what was going on and we made it possible.’’
For the union to work there will need to be sacrifices, especially by Anthony. He has been a lead scorer his entire career, and last season, he averaged 22.4 points. He is the No. 25 scorer in NBA history with more than 24,000 points. He is heading into territory that it took other All-stars, like Kevin Love and Chris Bosh, some time to adjust to.
“I didn’t want to come here to try to outshine Paul or Russ and vice versa,’’ Anthony said. “We’re trying to win basketball games, and by any means necessary, we’re going to do that. I’m going to bring my skillset to this team, to this organization, and that’s what I’m here for.’’
He likes the fact that he won’t have to score as much with this team, though he is still an elite scorer and plans to get buckets. Thunder general manager Sam Presti said the team might not immediately click. “I can write the stories for all of you the first time that we look sloppy or we drop a
guys will do what needs to be done to win a championship. NBA MVP Russell Westbrook
game here or there or we’re working things through, you know,’’ he said. “That’s natural .... But the vision for our team and the way we’ve gone about our business is to always see things for what they can be and not for what they are, and I think we’ll know what we can be after 82 games.’’
George said all three players approach the game the right way, so he has no doubts that eventually, they will make it work. He knows how to play with Anthony because both were on the gold medal-winning USA team in Rio.
The early returns appear to be good for Westbrook. He is shooting 53.6 per cent from the field in the pre-season while taking advantage of the extra space.
“We’ve got to figure out the best way for everybody to play and for our team to play,’’ Westbrook said. “That part is easy in my opinion — just being able to go out, and you have one goal, and that is win a championship.” Veteran defenceman
Mark Streit is suddenly the odd-man out in the Montreal Canadiens’ ongoing blue line shuffle. The Canadiens placed the 39-year-old on waivers Thursday three months after signing him to a one-year, $700,000 contract. Streit won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh last season.