In the middle of the Thunder’s resurgence and winning streak has been reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook. As Oklahoma City has tried to create a balance for Westbrook and two other All-Stars, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the team has struggled to find consistency. Playing behind Westbrook’s lead and not with him trying to lead is how the Thunder will find success, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.
After a slow start, OKC is in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 20-16 record. Anthony believes that Westbrook’s hot streak and the team’s improved play are no coincidence.
“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. “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.”
Check out other Northwest Division news below:
- After the Thunder lost to the Bucks on Friday, head coach Billy Donovan said the team needs Alex Abrines to play better, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. Abrines, 24, got the start on Friday but OKC was down 24 points after one quarter and he never returned. “My feeling is that Alex needs to help our team, and trying to find ways to get him going would be positive for our team,” Donovan said. “That’s why I kind of started him.”
- Following Abrines’ removal, Josh Huestis got the chance to play the rest of the game and showed some defensive promise against the Bucks, Dawson writes in a separate story.
- With Jeff Teague sidelined 2 to 4 weeks with a left knee sprain, Tyus Jones will take over the Wolves‘ starting point guard role for the second time this season and he feels prepared, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. “Just because it’s not the first time now,” Jones said. “It’s something I’ve done, something we’ve gone through as a team. I’m just ready to go. My first-time experience, I learned it was still just basketball. You’re in the game to start rather than coming in a few minutes into the game, but it’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
- The month of December has not been kind to the Jazz as the team searches for an identity, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes.