The Oklahoma City started off the season on a rough patch leading many pundits and analysts to question if the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook could gel.
That talk has died down of late as Oklahoma city has won six straight games and 12 of their past 15.
Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony believes the key to their recent success has been Westbrook reverting back to how he is used to playing, mainly not being so concerned with deferring to his teammates.
“I think the fact that Russ is just playing — not trying to defer to anybody, to any one of us — just playing his game and letting us play off him … I think he’s much more effective by doing that rather than deferring to myself or Paul,” Anthony said (h/t ESPN).
“We know what we bring to the game. We understand it. We accept it. And by that, he’s able to just play his game, relax and do what he does best. We need that. We need that Russ out there. Not the one who defers to us. Let us figure it out.”
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan says that Westbrook sets the tone for the rest of the team.
“No question, 100 percent,” Donovan said. “That’s important to us. His energy level lifts our team.”
“He’s taken really good shots. He’s getting to his spots on the floor,” Donovan said. “He is really confident in those shots, and I think he missed a lot of those shots early in the year, and I do think a lot of that had to do with him trying to incorporate these other guys and thinking less of himself. But there’s no question he’s the catalyst to our team, both offensively and defensively.”
Oklahoma City’s early struggles was a feeling out process of sorts as the trio of All-Stars found out how they could effectively play with one another.
“It takes time to get used to one another,” Anthony explained.
“I said this early in the season: Nothing happens overnight. It takes time for everybody to figure it out. This was all new, and it’s still all new, but the more time that goes by, the more we’re able to figure it out. Learning each other, figure out each other’s tendencies. But I think the most important thing is we’re starting to accept what we bring to the game and what we bring to the team, and everybody’s honoring that.”
Their recent success is an indicator that the team is finding it’s rhythm.
“I think they’re getting more and more comfortable with each other, how we’re trying to play, things we’re trying to do, where their shots are coming from,” Donovan said. “Hopefully there’s less thinking and more playing for them.”