Sixers to face an Oklahoma City Thunder squad still adjusting to a super-team style
The Thunder's "Big Three" - Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony - have not prospered in the way that was imagined when they arrived in the offseason.
Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, 12-time all star Carmelo Anthony, and four-time all star Paul George.
On the outside it's another iteration of an NBA super team. But the Big Three of Oklahoma City have not prospered in the way that was imagined when the Thunder made offseason moves to acquire Anthony and George.
The Thunder have played post-season basketball six of the last seven seasons, including last year when Westbrook averaged a triple-double after Kevin Durant's departure for the Golden State.
This season, despite the all-star roster, the Thunder have struggled through the first third of the season. Heading into Friday's matchup against the Sixers, the Thunder sit in eighth place in the Western Conference, with the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers on their heels and ready to strike.
Westbrook, Anthony, and George have all had careers where they've been expected to be the player on the floor who initiates offense, has the ball in their hands for the majority of the game, takes the final shot, and carries the team.
Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said that in order for the Thunder to be successful, his stars have to adjust to sharing the ball and moving the ball more than they're used to — and that adjustment is going to take time.
"Change sometimes is difficult, it's challenging, it's new, it's not easy," Donovan said after his team's shootaround Friday morning. "I really respect and admire their willingness to work through something that they really have maybe never done before in their careers."
After starting the season 8-12, the Thunder have won five of their last seven, including a 100-95 decision against the Pacers in George's return to Indiana
George said the team is still figuring out the right way to win, and how to work together in a cohesive way. It's not enough to just win games, he said. They want to win games the right way.
"With the talent that we, have we don't want to just be getting by," George said. "We want to start building towards being a dominant team."
Westbrook agreed, and echoed Donovan's sentiment on the changes that individual players, including himself, have had to make. He said that though the adjustments have been difficult to work through, the team seems to be headed down the right path.
"It's been okay," Westbrook said. "Not great, obviously, but I think defensively we're doing a hell of a job and getting stops. … Offensively, it's getting there."