Homecomings: NBA stars return to play their old teams
Adrian Dy on Oct 16, 2018 04:43 PM
DeMar DeRozan (L) by NBAE via Getty Images, Kawhi Leonard (R) by AP Photos
Without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable things about following the NBA is the player movement. Following your favorite stars when they land on a new team, whether it's because of free agency or a trade, can often mean a fresh start. And that fresh start will usually come in play when they face off against their old squad.
Here are 10 matchups we're dying to see when the 2018-19 NBA season tips off:
HONORABLE MENTION: Count me in the camp that believes Zaza Pachulia doesn't try to hurt other players - he's just extremely clumsy. Well, the NBA champion parted ways with the Golden State Warriors this offseason, taking his veteran savvy to the Detroit Pistons. He'll get his ring when he comes back to the Oracle Arena, but uh, Steph, KD, and Klay might want to be hyper-vigilant in case something...oops...happens.
#10 Kenneth Faried returns to DEN (11/10/18)
For the longest time, Kenneth Faried had been mentioned in trade rumors when he was a Nugget. Finally, the team pulled the trigger this offseason, unloading his contract on the Brooklyn Nets to clear cap space for extensions to guys like Nikola Jokic.
Faried never really carved out a niche under Mike Malone, but he was an integral part of George Karl's run with the squad, when he earned "The Manimal" nickname. Perhaps Faried can channel that energy one more time when he returns to the Rocky Mountains, now wearing black and white.
#9 Dennis Schroder returns to ATL (1/16/19)
Another guy that saw his name a lot in trade rumors, Dennis Schroder clashed at times with then-head coach Mike Budenholzer. He also had a few off-the-court incidents as well.
As part of their plunge into a total rebuild, the Hawks sent Schroder to the Thunder this offseason. The move gives Schroder quite the opportunity, as he'll even have the keys to the team for the early part of the season, with Russell Westbrook recovering from offseason knee surgery. In all likelihood, Westbrook will be back before next year, but you just know Schroder's still bound to have a big game in Atlanta, even with Budenholzer now coaching the Milwaukee Bucks.
#8 Jabari Parker returns to MIL (11/17/18)
Speaking of the Bucks, Jabari Parker was once slated to be their franchise star, after getting selected second overall in 2014. However, multiple season-ending injuries scuttled that plan, and the Bucks rebounded by rolling the dice on a Greek freak named Giannis Antetokounmpo.
As his career with the Bucks wound down, Parker infamously complained about his lack of playing time early in the 2018 Playoffs against the Boston Celtics. Interim head coach Joe Prunty actually listened to him and gave him more burn starting with game three, but the Bucks ultimately lost in seven. If Parker gets the playing time he's looking for in Chicago, he could seize the opportunity to once again show the Bucks what they're missing when they face off in November.
#7 Austin Rivers battles LAC (10/29/18)
This one need not be in Staples Center, though it is, because it's more about the personalities involved. To be specific, Clippers coach Doc Rivers will no longer be calling for his son to come off the bench. Instead, Austin Rivers will be looking to slice into his dad's defensive schemes, as a member of the Washington Wizards. Given how many jokes us fans made about the duo's pairing in LA, this might be a good time for the son to drop a big scoring binge on his pop.
#6 Dwight Howard battles CHA (12/30/18)
Dwight Howard has become a well-traveled journeyman in the latter stages of his career, but that might actually be a good thing, as he has such a knack for big games against his old squads.
This was something, surprise surprise, his old teammates noticed last season when the Hornets played the Hawks. Well, Howard is now a member of the Washington Wizards ("Through all of that, it's taught me how to be a Wizard"), so he should have some big games against Kemba Walker and company.
#5 LeBron James returns to CLE (11/22/18)
Since he's given the Cavaliers their very first championship, there better be no jersey burnings, boo's, or pithy signs. You hear me Cleveland?
#4 Gordon Hayward returns to UTA (11/10/18)
This one's a holdover from last season, but as we all know, Hayward wound up playing just the season-opener against the Celtics, before a devastating injury cost him his year.
Now healthy, Hayward's return to the Vivint Smart Home Arena, as a member of one of the East's top-tier teams, should be very worth the watch. Jazz center Rudy Gobert's probably still looking forward to the meeting.
#3 Carmelo Anthony returns to OKC (11/9/18)
For whatever reason, Melo was never comfortable with the Thunder, and despite him starting throughout his OKC stint, his minutes kept dropping and dropping, to the point where Jerami Grant was getting more burn than him during the Playoffs.
Ironically, Melo seems to have acquiesced to playing off the bench for the Rockets. Now, if only he could play in a hoodie during the actual game too...
#2 DeMarcus Cousins returns to New Orleans (4/10/19)
We unfortunately didn't get a whole lot of the Fire+Ice combo of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis while the two were in New Orleans, as Boogie went down with an achilles tear in the middle of last season. We do know what happened, after "fire " was snuffed out though - "ice" still managed to make it to the postseason, and even advanced to the second round of the Playoffs.
Come the offseason, what happened is a bit of a he-said, he-said situation, with Cousins saying he didn't get a fair contract offer from the Pelicans, and the Pelicans denying this. In any case, Cousins responded by sending shockwaves throughout the NBA, signing a one-year deal with the defending champs Golden State Warriors.
Now, that achilles injury could keep Cousins out until the All-Star break, which means he'd miss the first two games between Golden State and New Orleans. That said, you're going to want to mark down April 10, 2019, because if by then, Cousins isn't healthy, then something's gone disastrously wrong. He will likely be suiting up though, and with the game at the Smoothie King Center, "Fire" will be looking to melt a few drinks at the very least.
#1 Kawhi Leonard returns to San Antonio (1/14/19) // DeMar DeRozan returns to Toronto (2/23/19)
So, this should be fun. The Kawhi Leonard breakup from the Spurs was riveting drama, because it was the sort of thing that DOESN'T happen to what was by and large considered the model NBA franchise. The Spurs are supposed to be boring! Not...what that was.
Eventually, the Spurs bit the bullet and dealt Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan (and Jakob Poeltl). That in turn caused some drama up north, as fans decried the dissolution of the Kyle Lowry-DeRozan combo. It took a long time for DeRozan to get over the trade as well, after basically being Mr. Raptor for the past few seasons.
So when the Spurs travel to Canada, fans will no doubt have tears in their eyes when DeRozan makes his homecoming, In contrast, it's not inconceivable that we'll get "KD's first trip back to OKC" level of nastiness from the San Antonio crowd to the Klaw.
One thing's for sure. Both games are going to be must-watch TV.
BONUS: If Jimmy Butler gets traded and if his new team gets to play the Timberwolves, look out Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns. Expect Butler to try to replicate that reported scrimmage with third-stringers, except swap out the third-stringers with an NBA starting five. Oh boy, look out.
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