Some might be ready to give up on Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, according to George, they aren’t ready to give up on themselves—not even after falling to the slumping Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.
From ESPN.com’s Royce Young:
“For the talent that we have, obviously this is not where we want to be,” Thunder forward Paul George said. “But we’re going to remain optimistic, though, about the future and what we can do. Once we can find a way to really do it night in and night out, it’s no panic mode, but we have to start playing better. It’s getting to a point where we can’t allow ourselves to be at this point. We can say we’re going to figure it out, we can say all that. But at some point it’s gotta stop.”
This sounds a little ridiculous on some level, because we’re about one-third of the way through the season, and the Thunder are sitting below .500. Their offense is mostly a mess, and they’ve continued to fall apart down the stretch of close games. They maintain the NBA’s second-best defensive rating but gave up 64 points to a shorthanded Charlotte squad in the second half. They are iso-heavy, light on ball movement and haven’t figured out how to strike a balance between the three-star pairing of George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook—who, by the way, are shooting under 34 percent combined in crunch time, according to NBA.com.
On a semi-related note, Anthony didn’t stick around on Monday to help George and Westbrook preach patience and optimism:
Carmelo Anthony left the arena tonight before the locker room was open to reporters for postgame availability.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) December 12, 2017
And then there’s this, from ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon:
"What we're seeing is Melo aging before our eyes," a source from another team said the other night. https://t.co/V5acjzLCLY
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 12, 2017
Anthony, to his credit, has remained mostly upbeat this season. He’s probably just frustrated as he continues to vacillate between attempting fewer shots and being generally inefficient. That stuff takes its toll.
Still, my money is on the Thunder being fine. They have a top-10 point differential in victories and have started moving the ball a little bit better when their three marquee names are on the floor. Plus, all three of these guys are just so talented offensively it seems impossible that they won’t figure it out. Shoot, if we’re being honest, it’s almost encouraging that offense registers as their main concern—as that’s an overall strength for three of their best players.