Anthony second player in recent weeks to note communication issues with Thunder

Former OKC Thunder player Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Former OKC Thunder player Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /

For the second time in recent weeks, a former OKC Thunder player comments on communication as an issue. Sam Presti needs to get out in front of this given one of the clubs greatest selling points is their player relationships.

Former OKC Thunder player Carmelo Anthony appearance on ESPN’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith offered insight into his time with the team. More importantly, if we take Anthony’s comments as gospel his points could raise some concerns about the internal functioning of the club especially if we marry them in concert with the recent statements by Paul George.

The concern that rears its ugly head here is one of the main selling points of this small market team has always been their relationship with players and clearly, communication would be among their strengths. But, Anthony’s comments seemingly point to the opposite being the case with the team failing to communicate on several fronts with him.

Granted, there are some holes in his statements. Firstly, he notes he wasn’t the third option but the fourth behind Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams and that he accepted that role. Examination of the field goal attempts that season clearly shows that not to be the case as per below.

Field Goal Attempts per game in 2017-18:

  • Westbrook: 21.1
  • George: 17.0
  • Anthony: 15.0
  • Adams: 9.4

Perhaps the pecking order Anthony cited was what the team expected the order to be, but the reality was Anthony was clearly the third option. Nor was this a dramatic decrease for the forward given his previous two seasons in New York when he attempted 18.2 and 18.8 field goals respectively.

In terms of what Anthony was truly upset about, however, seems to be the lack of communication as the first year ended. The main points Anthony made surrounded discussion on him taking a pay cut or coming off the bench. Both items he says were never discussed with him.

We can debate the semantics of his statement given he does seem to contradict himself. Initially, he says neither item was discussed with him. He then backtracks in his follow-up comment only referencing the portion regarding accepting a bench role.

Melo felt the team wanted him to revamp his salary which could only be stated if, in fact, that was a request from management.  And, in fairness, if Sam Presti couldn’t get the forward to consider taking less money than why bother proceeding to get into the role he would play which presumably was to come off the bench.

Still, the points about communication can’t be ignored. Namely, who was responsible for the lack of communication? Melo cites Billy Donovan as giving him a specific role in which he delivered what he was asked to. The more concerning part of this statement is Anthony saying “he” approached Donovan to get clarification not the other way around.

The real damaging part of Melo’s interview is the implication Donovan was afraid to discuss a bench role with him and the team wasn’t open to entering a discussion on how to make it work. The first part of that statement obviously implies Donovan’s reluctance to manage his team and the second half implies Presti was resolute in their decision to move on based on lowering their overhead.

"“I think it was bigger than basketball. I think it was a tax situation. But I think they knew that for me coming in there. They was trying to get me to kind of revamp my contract. And at that point in time, I just felt like the situation wasn’t handled right. I felt like it was just a one-and-done situation in OKC. And I didn’t respect that. I didn’t want that. Because I went in there to fight.”"

Diving into the specifics of what Anthony said provides a bit more clarity. Is this a player who is simply unhappy with how things went in OKC? Perhaps. But, what benefit would he derive from stating these things so much after the fact?

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The Donovan portion of Anthony’s comments is a concern as it implies the head coach isn’t willing to have the tough conversations required with players he considers to be stars. Albeit, this isn’t a revelation for Thunder fans given that’s been the working assumption during his tenure anyway.

What does raise red flags is the Sam Presti portion of this interview. Without naming the GM, Anthony basically implies there was no room for negotiation and the decision was already made. Where this becomes a potential issue is when it’s combined with Paul George’s comments about the team knowing when he re-signed a year ago it was under the assumption it was a one year experiment.

Perhaps both situations can be easily answered as stars simply spinning the story to meet their own narrative. Yet, the concern is this is two players now citing communication issues or miscommunication with the Thunder.

Fortunately, Presti is in the midst of his “reload and replenish” phase so there is time to let these comments dissipate.

Next. Paul George’s insights on player empowerment, exit from OKC raise eyebrows. dark

To that end, Sam Presti needs to nip this in the bud as the essence of what makes OKC different from their competition is the stellar way they handle their assets and in particular their star players.  Retaining that image is key for the future as adding stars is only the first part of the equation, retaining them long term is the priority.