When Oklahoma City acquired not only Paul George via a trade with the Indiana Pacers during this past offseason, but also Carmelo Anthony to form a big three alongside MVP Russell Westbrook, many NBA fans assumed that OKC would be one of the top teams in the West challenging the Golden State Warriors for a berth in the NBA Finals. After 20 or so games into the season however, this is definitely not the case.
The Thunder currently sit on a 9-12 record, not even good enough for a playoff spot if the season were to end today. Some analysts predicted that this would be the case, as pairing a trio of ball-dominant scorers next to each other, even with a great distributor in the form of Westbrook, was never going to end well. Even though those analysts are correct thus far, nobody thought it'd be this bad.
Many point to chemistry issues between the big three as the main reason for their lackluster play this season. Russell Westbrook has been labeled a stat-padder by the majority, proving them right when he got visibly frustrated when Steven Adams didn't shoot the ball to give Westbrook his 10th assist of the game. Paul George is in a contract year and is just trying to play well for himself to earn more money come the summer. And when it comes to Melo, well, Melo is just staying Melo, disregarding any notion of reducing his role for the good of the team, preferring to score 20 a night in a loss instead.
What almost no one has mentioned however, is the chemistry between Carmelo and head coach Billy Donovan.
During the game between the Thunder and Orlando Magic -- resulting in OKC's 12th loss of the season -- Anthony was spotted waving off a substitution made by Donovan, actively defying his orders during the game. Stephen A. Smith explains.
“…and I’m watching Carmelo Anthony on the free-throw line, I’m watching Billy Donovan send someone in the game to sub for him,” said Smith. “…and Melo waves him off. ‘I got it, I’m staying in. I’m not coming out, I’m staying in’”
“Well, excuse me, who is the coach and who is running the show? I’m not saying Melo is wrong for doing that, I’m saying those are the things that are happening.”
Given all the speculation as to why the new-look Thunder are playing so badly this season, the storyline between Anthony and Donovan is one that is bound to receive a lot more attention the more OKC lose.