It’s time for the week-long reunion. We got to see some of the best reunions this week in the National Basketball Association.
This week was also one of the wildest NBA Trade deadlines in NBA history. A few of the trades have set up for some bittersweet returns between Coaches and Players. It even featured the return of one player to a place he became a legend. There were also players reunited with their former teams and teammates.
This all sounds great, right? But how the reunions ended weren’t so memorable, and it certainly does not feel so good.
Coaches and Players Reunited:
Joe Johnson, Mike D’Antoni
Joe Johnson became a force with Phoenix and D’Antoni as his coach. He averaged 14.0 points per game in his three and a half seasons with the Suns. In 2004-05, Johnson and the Suns posted a 62 – 20 record and made a run to the Western Conference Finals but fell to the San Antonio Spurs, 4 games to 1.
Johnson spent time with the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, and recently the Utah Jazz. However, Johnson was part of a three-team trade that sent him to the Sacramento Kings where he received a contract buyout and become a free agent.
He’ll likely join the Houston Rockets to reunite with coach D’Antoni in hopes to win their first NBA title together. Of course, Johnson will have to find his way into the rotation as a bench player. Let’s see how this reunion works out.
Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau, and Jimmy Butler
Another player looking to reunite with a former coach is Derrick Rose, who was also traded to a different team and receives a contract buyout.
Rose was traded to the Utah Jazz from the Cleveland Cavaliers and will now look to join the Minnesota Timberwolves once his buyout is complete. The Wolves have Rose’s former coach, Tom Thibodeau, and teammate, Jimmy Butler.
Rose was drafted first overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, but several leg injuries have kept him down, and the Bulls traded the one-time MVP to the big apple. Rose was the youngest MVP in NBA history when he won it at age 22. It was coach Thibodeau’s first year has the Bulls head coach, and he helped the Chicago-born point guard have a breakout season, averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds.
Still in his prime and looking much healthier, Rose added to the Wolves could be a severe issue for the Western Conference teams. The Wolves already have Rose’s former teammates, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, paired with the young, talented Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. If Thibodeau can get Rose to play like an MVP-caliber player, it will be tough to see them breaking up again. This is going to make for one lovely reunion.
Player Returns to Where He Became A Legend:
Paul Pierce, TD GARDEN and 2008 Championship Team:
Perhaps the best reunion of the week is Paul Pierce and his return to the TD Garden. The TD Garden is the home arena of the Boston Celtics where Paul Pierce played most of his professional career.
Since being drafted by the Celtics in 1998, Pierce has been the face of the franchise, and he returned to Boston to be honored and have his jersey hung in the rafters at TD Garden. Pierce is the 22nd Celtics players to have this honor.
Pierce’s former teammates, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, were in attendance. Along with former Boston coach, Doc Rivers.
A 10-time All-Star, Pierce averaged 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 15 seasons with the Celtics while being named the NBA Finals MVP in 2008 after leading Boston to the NBA championship.
He scored 24,021 points for the Celtics, second only to John Havlicek in franchise history.
Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat:
Like Pierce, Wade made a name for himself as a member of the Miami Heat. With Wade, the Heat won three NBA titles as he became the teams all-time leading scorer.
Wade left the Heat in the 2016 free agency to join his hometown Chicago Bulls, then opting to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers and rejoin best friend LeBron James before this season.
Of course, the Cavaliers recent struggle resulted in Wade being traded back to the Heat which could appear to be his last stop in the NBA.
Wade and the city of Miami seem to be excited about the return. Wade’s goal is to mentor the Heat newcomers like he was mentored by former Heat players like Eddie Jones, Gary Payton, and Shaquille O’Neal.
There is no word yet on whether or not Wade will return after this season, but it’s good to see No. 3 back in South Beach.
Players Face-Off Against Former Team:
Okay, these are never the best reunions, especially after the player was traded despite re-signing with the team.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers:
That is the case for Blake Griffin. One week before the deadline, the Clippers traded Griffin to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley.
Since Griffin joined the Pistons, they were unbeaten. That was until Griffin’s former team handed them their first loss in the new era, beating Detroit 108-95.
Even though Griffin had an off night by his standards, his reunion was an exciting one. Both he and Bradley were hit with simultaneous technical fouls in the first quarter after battling for rebounding position.
Griffin also got a huge block on former teammate Montrezl Harrell and brought the Detriot fans to their feet.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see Griffin’s return to Staples Center until next season, but if it’s anything like this game. We could expect an exciting one with a huge ovation.
Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls:
On Feb. 9, the Chicago Bulls got their first look at Jimmy Butler as an opponent. Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night in 2017. He was traded for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, 2017 No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen).
But the city of Chicago still loves Butler and gave him a standing ovation. Former Bull and current Wolves teammate, Taj Gibson, also received that same honor.
Butler and Gibson received standing ovations during starting-lineup introductions and after a tribute video during a timeout in the first quarter.
Butler had a great night with 38 points as he battled Zach LaVine all night for the game high. Kris Dunn did not play in this game, but Feb. 24 is the reunion for LaVine and Dunn to Minnesota, and we expect to see the Wolves fans give them the same ovation.
Despite the reunion, the LaVine lead Bulls beat Butler’s Wolves 114-113.
Players Face-Off Against Former Teammates:
Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant:
I mean, this will never get old. In the summer of 2016, Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors in hopes to win a title. Durant did just that, and he also beat his former team and teammate, Russell Westbrook all three times they met in the regular season.
That won’t stop Westbrook from balling out as he captured his first NBA MVP and set triple-double records at the same time.
This year, Westbrook is still continuing where he left off last season, but his record against Durant and the Warriors so far this season is 2-0. He has finally been able to beat Durant and the splash brothers. Will he be Durant’s kryptonite in the NBA playoffs though?
The Thunder have beaten the Warriors by an average of 18.5 points this season, and they will play two more times, so let’s see if Durant and Warriors can finally get a win over Westbrook this season.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving:
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James has been reunited with former teammate Kyrie Irving for the final time this season (unless they meet in the playoffs).
The Cavaliers traded former No. 1 pick, Irving to the Boston Celtics because he allegedly didn’t want to play another minute with LeBron.
In return for Irving, the Cavaliers got Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 Draft Pick.
The Cavaliers would ultimately trade both Thomas and Crowder away in two different deals to make the team better than they were.
Honestly speaking, Cavaliers fans were probably wondering why they’d trade Irving in the first place.
They got their answer on Sunday, Feb. 11 when the new-look Cavaliers crushed the Boston Celtics 121-99 on a night where they were retiring Paul Pierce’s jersey.
LeBron James is 2-1 against Irving this season, and that was the Cavaliers first win over a top-5 team since they beat the Celtics on Opening Night.
This reunion was short-lived, but if both teams continue to play well, we could see two weeks worth of James vs. Irving.