This season, we’ll see what feels like an unprecedented number of players and coaches reunited with their former teams. After a flurry of offseason moves, we’re taking a moment to celebrate some of the best “homecomings” of the upcoming 2013-2014 season.
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10. CARL LANDRY
Back in 2011, the Kings’ old regime traded Landry so that they could land Marcus Thornton. Now, the new ownership is bringing him back on a four-year, $27 million deal. Landry played well in Golden State last season, but he joins a crowded frontcourt in Sacramento that already features DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson, so something will eventually have to give.
9. KURT RAMBIS, MARK MADSEN
Rambis was an assistant coach for the Lakers on-and-off for more than a decade before leaving in 2009 to take the head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves… from which he was promptly fired after two forgettable seasons. Prior to all this, the bespectacled and mustachioed Rambis won four championships as the all-out hustle man for the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, and near the end of this July, the organization announced it had re-hired Rambis as an assistant coach.
Speaking of hustle, the Lakers also recently hired the human mascot himself, Mark Madsen, as a player development coach, a role which will presumably consist of mentoring Robert Sacre in the finer points of sideline celebration dances.
8. FLIP SAUNDERS, COREY BREWER
It’s been eight years since Saunders was fired as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves (just one year after he led them to the Western Conference Finals), and coincidentally, the team hasn’t made the playoffs since. Following the (long overdue) ouster of David Kahn, Saunders is making his return, this time to the front office as president of basketball operations as well as a minority partner.
Corey Brewer, the versatile swingman the Timberwolves originally selected with the seventh overall pick back in 2007, is also making his return after noteworthy stints in Dallas and Denver. Brewer brings with him solid perimeter defense, but perhaps more important, he’s a chemistry guy in the locker room who also provides instant energy off the bench while cheerfully embracing whatever role he’s asked to play.
7. JORDAN FARMAR
Farmar reportedly gave up as much as $10 million that he would have earned playing in Turkey this season in exchange for a one-year, $1 million contract to return to the Lakers. That’s how badly he wants a chance to play in L.A. for Mike D’Antoni‘s uptempo system. Farmar was a member of the Lakers’ two most recent championship teams but bolted in free agency after feeling hamstrung in Phil Jackson‘s triangle offense. It’s hard to believe that the 26-year-old guard was once lumped into an adidas commercial alongside the likes of Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan and Chauncey Billups et al.
6. DEVIN HARRIS
Harris’ Texas homecoming was put on hold earlier this month when the Mavericks rescinded their original three-year, $9 million offer after a routine physical evaluation revealed an injured toe requiring surgery. The deal has since been restructured to a more modest one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum of $1.3 million. After the Mavs selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2005 Draft, Harris spent his first three-plus seasons in Dallas and played a significant role in the team’s 2006 Finals run before being traded to the Nets for Jason Kidd in 2008.
5. MIKE MILLER
Miller has been a hired gun for the Heat the past few years and an integral part of their two championship runs. But he was amnestied this summer in an effort to clear cap space and gain more financial flexibility for the coming year. His return gives the Grizzlies some sorely-needed outside shooting. During his first stint in Memphis from 2003 to 2008, Miller racked up all sorts of franchise records, including the all-time record for three-point shooting percentage and the record for most three pointers both made and attempted. Fans in Memphis remember his time there fondly, but it remains to be seen whether Miller has enough left in the tank to help the Grizzlies become a legitimate threat to win the West this year.
4. MIKE BROWN
After his unceremonious dismissal from the Lakers last year just five games into the regular season, Brown is making his semi-triumphant return to a team from which he made another high-profile exit, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mercurial owner Dan Gilbert has all but admitted that he fired Brown three years ago in an ultimately futile attempt to keep LeBron James in Cleveland and is now prostrating himself before Brown and welcoming him back with open arms. Only time will tell if Brown can take a fledgling team with a promising young core and transform them into perennial contenders.
3. JASON KIDD
The state-of-the-art-multi-billion-dollar Barclays Center in the heart of Brooklyn is a far cry from The Izod Center in East Rutherford, but regardless of the locale, Kidd returns to his former franchise as the team’s all-time leader in both steals and assists as the helmsman of a Nets squad that made back-to-back Finals appearances in 2001 and 2002. But Kidd has absolutely zero coaching experience, so it’s hard not to imagine that it was some combination of loyalty and nostalgia that led the team to hand him the reigns, especially considering the outsized expectations that come along with the recent acquisitions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Nets fans, along with the team’s billionaire Russian overlord, expect to win now, so don’t be surprised if (when) the rookie coach finds himself in the hot seat if (when) things don’t go as planned this season.
2. METTA WORLD PEACE aka ???
When Ron Artest left Queensbridge to become a NBA star, he took all of his friends with him. That was the deal they made as youngsters coming up together in one of New York’s toughest housing projects. So it’s only fitting that things have come full circle and that he will likely finish out his career with the New York Knicks, who famously passed up on the local product from St. John’s in the 1999 Draft. The only question now is whether his new, yet-to-be-announced alias will be as raucously controversial as his current one.
1. CHAUNCEY BILLUPS, RASHEED WALLACE
Life in Detroit has been bleaker than usual the past few years. The murder rates are higher than they’ve been in decades, the Pistons haven’t made the playoffs for three straight seasons, and just last week, the city filed for bankruptcy protection. The Pistons have been a phantom of their former selves, and last season they officially closed the book on what had been a remarkable era of relevance when they traded away Tayshaun Prince, the last remaining member of the 2004 championship team that made six straight conference finals appearances and back-to-back Finals appearances.
But now Motor City is fighting again, and bringing back the point guard and Finals MVP who led the way through the better part of the last decade is a great place to start. Billups was famously traded to Denver for Allen Iverson back in 2008, a mistake that Pistons GM Joe Dumars regretted almost immediately and is now trying to rectify in some small way. Billups will likely serve primarily as mentor to the newly-acquired Brandon Jennings, who is looking to resurrect his once-promising career. After all, Billups was in a similar position when he arrived in Detroit as a young journeyman trying to find his footing in the league, and he’ll be able to instill in Jennings some much-needed discipline and defensive tenacity. And what could be more gratifying for Pistons fans than bringing back the always-colorful Rasheed “Ball Don’t Lie!” Wallace, who’ll act as both assistant coach and mentor to young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe? At the very least, this reunion should give Motown a long-overdue morale boost.
Which “homecoming” are you most looking forward to this season?
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