The Most Anticipated Returns During the 2018-19 NBA season
The NBA’s 2018-19 NBA schedule has been revealed. Last time out, we talked about the can’t miss games of the 2018-19 NBA season. This time around, we’re going to talk about the most anticipated returns/homecomings.
There were plenty of big names who changed teams during the summer and these players are going to play their first games against their former teams in their former homes.
Here are the Top 10 most anticipated returns for the NBA’s 2018-19 season:
Carmelo Anthony at Oklahoma City Thunder November 8, 2018
Carmelo Anthony completed the OK3, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s own Big 3 last season. Together with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the OK3 was supposed to take the Thunder to the top of the Western Conference and challenge the Golden State Warriors. Well, they were good but only on paper.
The Thunder struggled all season long and finished with a mediocre 48-34 record, which was only good for 4th seed in the ultra competitive Western Conference. The 48 wins was also just one win better than the previous season, when Westbrook single handedly carried the Thunder to 6th place in the Western Conference.
Among the three, it was Anthony who failed to live up to expectations. But armed with a player option for this season, Anthony opted in but was traded by the Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta bought Anthony out of his contract and he signed with the Houston Rockets.
LeBron James at Cleveland Cavaliers November 21, 2018
The biggest name who changed teams during the summer. The Los Angeles Lakers had long wanted to add a max free agent. After failing to land a big name free agent in the previous years, the Lakers landed the biggest prize in the free agent market in 2018.
LeBron James left Cleveland for Tinseltown after fulfilling his promise to deliver a championship to the Cavaliers in 2016. This is not the first time that James has left Cleveland. In 2010, James left Cleveland for South Beach and won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat. He left the Heat after four years and returned to Cleveland where he led them to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including their title winning season in 2016.
James is coming off one of his best seasons ever. He played 82 games for the first time in his career and he almost averaged a triple double during the 2017-18 NBA season. But after back to back losses to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals ( third loss in four tries against the Dubs ), the King is on the move again.
Gordon Hayward at Utah Jazz November 9, 2018
Gordon Hayward left the Utah Jazz in the previous summer, signing a free agent deal with the Boston Celtics and joining former Butler head coach and good friend Brad Stevens in Boston. But before Hayward could make his mark in Boston, he suffered a horrific injury on opening night. Hayward missed the entire 2017-18 season but is expected to be back when the 2018-19 campaign starts.
Hayward is expected to lead the Boston Celtics along with Kyrie Irving, who is also returning from a knee injury which forced him to miss the playoffs. But even without Hayward and Irving, the Boston Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals where they came within a game of advancing to the Finals.
Because he was injured last year, Hayward hasn’t played a game against the Utah Jazz in Utah. This will be his first game in his former home court and teammates. Had this game happened last year, no question there would have been tension in this matchup. But Utah barely felt Hayward’s absence after rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell took over as the club’s main man.
DeAndre Jordan at Los Angeles Clippers December 20, 2018
DeAndre Jordan is finally on the move after spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles drafted DJ with the 35th pick of the 2008 NBA Draft and he became one of the league’s top rebounders and shot blockers in Clippers land. But with the Clippers rebuilding after losing Chris Paul to the Rockets, DJ as well as Blake Griffin were traded.
This isn’t the first time that Jordan is going to Dallas. In 2015, Jordan verbally committed to sign with the Mavericks in the first days of free agency. But in what is considered as one of the more bizarre turnarounds in NBA free agency history, Jordan didn’t keep his word and decided to return to the Los Angeles Clippers. Dallas got spurned but they never gave up. Now they finally have DJ in their fold.
After Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets and Blake Griffin sent to the Detroit Pistons, it was moot and academic that Jordan would be the next piece on the move. Lob City took the Clippers to new heights but it never pushed them to championship level. After several years of failure, Steve Ballmer decided it wa time to rebuild.
Kawhi Leonard at San Antonio Spurs January 3, 2019
Kawhi Leonard was one of the strangest stories of 2018. The Klaw suffered a quad injury during the 2017 playoffs which forced him to miss the latter portion of the postseason and the early part of the 2017-18 regular season. But after playing just 9 games for the Spurs last season, Leonard shut himself down, citing his need to heal 100%.
What was first thought to be an injury that took too long to heal later became a story about friction between Leonard and the Spurs management. The Spurs would finish the season without him and the longer the story went, it became clear that Leonard had no intention to return to San Antonio.
The Spurs finally traded Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan last month, ending the long standing saga. Leonard recently penned a thank you letter for the Spurs but the damage had been done. It will be interesting how San Antonio welcomes the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.
Blake Griffin at Los Angeles Clippers January 12, 2019
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul wee the catalysts on Lob City in Los Angeles, During their era, the Clippers didn’t just become a playoff team, they became the top team in Los Angeles. The Lakers have been the show in Hollywood since the 80’s but after missing the playoffs since 2013, it’s been the Clippers who have ruled the Battle of los Angeles.
Chris Paul’s trade to Houston signalled the end of Lob City. After CP3, it was Blake Griffin who was traded to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. The Pistons were then hoping to make a run at the playoffs and Griffin had both the talent and experience to lead them. That didn’t happen though.
The only time Griffin has played as a visitor in the Staples Center was when the Clippers would play the Lakers with the latter as home team. Well, the former franchise player of the Clippers will suit up against the team that made him the first overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft.
Tony Parker at San Antonio Spurs January 14, 2019
Tony Parker was an institution in San Antonio. The Spurs picked Parker with the 28th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft and little did they know that he would go on to become the best point guard in franchise history. Along with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Parker won four titles with the Spurs.
But like Kawhi Leonard, Parker suffered a quad injury. He returned to play last season but was no longer the explosive guard he was known for during his prime. Parker made some controversial remarks about Leonard’s injury and that was perhaps the final straw in his stint with the Spurs.
With his starting job gone, Parker must’ve felt slighted in San Antonio, This summer, Parker signed a two year deal worth $10M wih the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte will be Parker’s first team outside the Spurs. He played a total of 17 season for the Spurs and will forever be missed.
DeMar DeRozan at Toronto Raptors February 22, 2019
The other side of the Kawhi Leonard deal. DeMar DeRozan had already established himself as the best player for the Toronto Raptors but after Toronto got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2018 Playoffs.
DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in Toronto was considered as one of the top backcourts in the nairon but after the team failed to push the Raptors to the top, management decided to break up their all-star backcourt.
Isaiah Thomas at Boston Celtics March 18, 2019
There was a time when Isaiah Thomas was an MVP candidate. This was when IT played for the Boston Celtics during the 2016-17 season. The Thomas in Boston green uniform was an unstoppable scorer who did most of the damage in the fourth quarter. But with the opportunity to get Kyrie Irving last season, the Celtics traded Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thomas didn’t last long in Cleveland. He was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers and after the season, the Lakers didn’t re-sign him.
Thomas signed with the Denver Nuggets this summer. While he was in Cleveland and Los Angeles last season, Thomas didn’t get a chance to play against the Celtics in Boston. But with the full schedule in the new season, Thomas finally has the chance to play against the Celtics.
DeMarcus Cousins at New Orleans Pelicans April 9, 2019
After losing Javale McGee and ZaZA Pachulia, many thought that the Warriors would be losing a lot of production at the center position. But the Dubs surprised us when they bagged DeMarcus Cousins for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Cousins played for the Sacramento Kings before being traded to the Pelicans. He blossomed into an all-star center with the Pelicans but suffered a season ending ACL injury last season. Cousins is expected to start the 2018-19 season on the injured list but should be back to play against his former team on this date.