Big 3 prom­ise 1 ball is enough

Thun­der trio down­play stats, al­phadog sta­tus

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page -

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.

Sue OGROCKI/GETTY im­ages

Paul ge­orge

Carmelo An­thony

PAS­CAL Le seg­re­tain/getty im­ages

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