George sees championship potential for Thunder after Anthony trade

Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. (Seth Wenig/AP)

In the wake of news that the New York Knicks have agreed to trade veteran star Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the latter team’s other marquee acquisitions is setting expectations high for the Western Conference contender.

“This feels like a championship team,” Paul George told USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick. “I’m in a good place. I know Russ (Westbrook) is in a good place. Melo is motivated more than ever … You put us three together, who all have something to prove still, (and) we’re going to be a special team.”

Oklahoma City acquired George in June, setting the wheels in motion as the club began to build its new superteam. Now with Anthony in the mix, the Thunder look poised to return to the league’s upper echelon in 2017-18.

“We have a young group,” George said. “A lot of talent here, an unbelievable coach (in Billy Donovan), (and) as you see, a front office that’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team. It just has all the makeups to be a great organization and a chance to put championships together.”

The former Indiana Pacer also discussed his relationship with Team USA teammate Anthony, and the pair’s discussions about suiting up together in the NBA one day.

“When I got the chance to play with Melo on the USA team, I expressed (and) he expressed how much we wanted to play alongside each other in an NBA uniform,” George said. “When we both were presented this opportunity this summer, and knowing Melo wanted to opt out and wanted to move on, we’ve connected.

“We talked, and he expressed again – ‘Hey, I would love to come join you guys and be a part of what you guys have got going there.’ And then from there, it’s a no-brainer. We run with it, and it came to life.”

Oklahoma City’s recent post-season history has seen a tumultuous run from the Westbrook-led squad. After losing in the Finals in 2012, the Thunder earned a conference semi-finals appearance, then a conference finals appearance, before missing the post-season altogether in 2015. The past two years have seen another conference finals loss and a first-round exit last season.

With a few key changes and a beefed up lineup heading into the coming season, however, the team’s luck may be about to change.

“I’m real excited,” George said. “It just goes to show how a small market can stay aggressive in the trade place, and can really do whatever it needs to do for the players’ sake to give them the best chance to win, man.

“It’s pretty impressive that Oklahoma has now three superstars, and gave this state a legitimate chance to win a championship.”

The Thunder open the 2017-18 regular season against Anthony’s former squad on Oct. 19.