OKLAHOMA CITY — So far this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA.
The Thunder were expected to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference and favorites in the Northwest Division after acquiring all-stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the offseason.
Instead, the Thunder came into Tuesday’s game against Utah just 10-12 and in last place in the Northwest Division, and just ninth place in the Western Conference.
Both OKC coach Billy Donovan and Jazz coach Quin Snyder say it’s just a matter of time before the Thunder get going and challenge the best teams in the West.
“The big thing for us right now, 82 games is a lot of games,” said Donovan. “As a coach I want to see us playing closer and closer to the way we have to play with having such a new team. These guys are doing a great job of trying to do that.”
“Any time you have a new teams it takes time to develop cohesiveness and an identity,” said Snyder. “They’re a heckuva team. It’s a mistake to judge any team at this time of the year.”
It’s probably a good thing that the Thunder aren’t quite up to speed yet.
The Jazz had already played the Thunder once this season, winning in Salt Lake City back in October, and they nearly won again Tuesday night. The Jazz will play the Thunder twice more in the next 18 days — on Dec. 20 in OKC and Dec. 23 in Salt Lake and then will be all done with them for the year.
“I don’t know if it’s good that we have to play them three times in a month or it’s good we get it over with,” said Snyder. “Because I think they’re going to keep getting better.”
DONOVAN ON DONOVAN:
Donovan said he got to know Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell and his family a few years ago when he was the coach at Florida and recruited him.
“Knowing him and his family a little bit, the thing that stands out besides his talent level is his character as a person and a competitor,” he said. “Sometimes that stuff gets lost when he’s scoring 41 points or 30 or 20. They really miss the boat on why is that happening. Donovan Mitchell has the 'it' factor to me, and I’ve always felt that way about him. It’s a lot deeper than his ability that has enabled him to do the things he’s done.”
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz play West-leading Houston Thursday night at home and then head out on a six-game, 12-day road trip that will take them to Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Houston and Oklahoma City. Dante Exum was on the trip and not wearing the sling on his shoulder for the first time since his surgery in October. Thabo Sefolosha was cleared to play by the NBA after sustaining concussion symptoms the night before against Washington. He finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals.