After an offseason of furious player movement -- including eight 2019 All-Stars changing teams -- one intriguing storyline of this NBA season has been how players are received by fans when they return to the cities they left.
Some have been easier to predict than others. Kyrie Irving in Boston? That reunion was pushed back to March 3 because of injury, but it won't be subtle. In fact, Boston fans didn't wait to see him in person, as they booed Irving in absentia on Nov. 27. Anthony Davis and Kristaps Porzingis have felt the wrath of fans scorned. Kawhi Leonard, on the other hand, received a hero's welcome when he returned to Toronto, despite his breaking the hearts of Raptors fans when he left for the Clippers.
Throughout the season, we'll gauge each of the reunions with a "Fan Hospitality Meter."
Here is the reunion tour schedule, with anticipated fan reactions and results:
Jump to results:
Carmelo Anthony | Russell Westbrook | Hassan Whiteside | Ball, Ingram, Hart
Josh Richardson | Paul George | Terry Rozier | Malcolm Brogdon
Al Horford | Kawhi Leonard | Anthony Davis
Bojan Bogdanovic | Jimmy Butler | Gilgeous-Alexander and Gallinari
Mike Conley | Kristaps Porzingis | Chris Paul | Kemba Walker
Reunion tour schedule
Before he left: Russell became an All-Star in Brooklyn and got his career back on track after being traded by the Lakers. He spent only two seasons with the Nets, but he did help lead the organization back to the playoffs and helped create the culture that allowed the team to land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Russell is expected to play against the Nets despite a bruised quad, but it's not certain how much longer he'll be with Golden State. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Timberwolves were interested in organizing a multiteam trade that would include Russell moving to Minnesota.
Fan reaction: Russell said that he felt like in a sense, he grew up career-wise in Brooklyn, but admitted he wasn't sure what to expect from the crowd in Wednesday's return to Barclays Center. He was met with applause as the starting lineups were announced and team-sponsored fan section "The Block" started, "Thank you, D-Lo" chants as he shot free throws. The Nets also played a minute-long video showing appreciation for the guard after the first quarter.
-- Nick Friedell and Malika Andrews
Before he left: Rubio developed close friendships with teammates while embracing the Salt Lake City community on a personal level only to see the organization move in the opposite direction with Mike Conley. Instead of pouting, Rubio moved on by getting to work earlier than usual this summer in Spain, signing a three-year, $51 million contract with Phoenix in July and then leading Spain to a FIBA World Cup title while capturing MVP honors.
Anticipated fan reaction: Rubio didn't leave any bad blood in Utah, and in fact, he still wears Donovan Mitchell's signature Adidas sneakers, so it's likely that he'll receive a loud ovation when Phoenix rolls into town.
-- Eric Woodyard
Before he left: Harris played only 87 games as a Clipper, but he was the team's leading scorer and rebounder and helped the Clippers start down the path of an unexpected playoff run before being traded. He helped make a lot of games more competitive than expected for what was a rebuilding team.
Anticipated fan reaction: Harris could ultimately help the Clippers win a title if all goes right. Harris was the main piece acquired in the trade that sent Blake Griffin to Detroit in 2018, helping the Clippers continue a big rebuild. Then Harris was traded in 2019 to Philadelphia in a deal that brought back Landry Shamet and two first-round picks, including Miami's 2021 pick that went in the five-first-round-pick package sent to Oklahoma City for Paul George. Besides that, Harris' likable demeanor and consistency were always appreciated and should be received well in his return to L.A.
-- Ohm Youngmisuk
March 3: Nets guard Kyrie Irving returns to Boston
Before he left: In October 2018, Irving declared during a season-ticket-holder event that he would remain in Boston as a free agent "if you'll have me." Things basically went downhill from there. The Celtics spent the season failing to live up to lofty preseason expectations, culminating in Boston's lackluster five-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. By the time the series ended, everyone knew what Irving once said no longer applied. And, come June 30, it was official: Irving left as a free agent, teaming up with Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets, while Kemba Walker replaced Irving in Boston.
Stephen A. can't wait for the next time Kyrie plays in Boston
After Kemba Walker went off for 39 points and Celtics fans booed Kyrie Irving, Stephen A. Smith is dropping what he's doing and going to TD Garden the next time Kyrie and the Nets play in Boston.
Anticipated fan reaction: Of all the players making their respective returns to various cities across the league, none is more certain to get a specific reaction than the vitriol Irving will receive from the Boston faithful after the way the past year played out. Irving missed the Nets' first game in Boston on Nov. 27 because of a shoulder injury, but that didn't stop Celtics fans from booing him. It probably won't be any different when he actually suits up in TD Garden.
-- Tim Bontemps
March 13: Pelicans forward Derrick Favors returns to Utah
Before he left: For much of Favors' eight and a half seasons in a Utah Jazz jersey, the big man remained cool, calm and collected as his name was repeatedly linked to trade rumors. Finally, the Jazz dealt him this offseason, sending him to New Orleans. Favors continues to express his love for Utah. He ranks fourth in franchise history in total rebounds, seventh in blocks and 10th in games played. Favors is now playing his natural center position in New Orleans, but he played a pivotal role in Utah's resurgence from a 25-win team in 2013-14 to playoff appearances in the past three seasons. He missed the Pelicans' Nov. 23 game in Utah because of back spasms.
Anticipated fan reaction: It wouldn't be surprising to see the Jazz put together a short tribute for Favors when he returns.
-- Eric Woodyard
March 24: Lakers guard Danny Green returns to Toronto
Before he left: When Kawhi Leonard was sent to Toronto in the summer of 2018, Green's inclusion was seen as almost an afterthought. But after he played through a groin injury -- and, as a result, played below his usual standard -- in his final season with the San Antonio Spurs, Green was back to his old self with the Raptors. He provided a potent combination of 3-point shooting, wing defense and championship experience to the Raptors during their run to the 2019 NBA title, and he was one of the personalities that had the biggest impact in the team's locker room. And while he could've been back if Leonard had re-signed with the Raptors this summer, Green followed Leonard to Los Angeles -- joining the Lakers rather than the Clippers -- after Leonard did not.
Anticipated fan reaction: Green will undoubtedly get a standing ovation. He became a beloved figure in Toronto, immersing himself in the community and endearing himself to fans with his own podcast. He, like Leonard in December, will be celebrated for his part in Toronto's first-ever championship in his first visit back there.
-- Tim Bontemps
March 25: Raptors center Marc Gasol returns to Memphis
Before he left: The Raptors and Grizzlies agreed to a deal just before the 3 p.m. trade deadline on Feb. 7, with Gasol going to Toronto for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a second-round pick. The deal proved to be a masterstroke for the Raptors, as Gasol gave them the perfect defensive presence to throw at Joel Embiid when Toronto faced the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the playoffs, and he was a catalyst as the Raptors went on to win their first championship. He then opted in to the final year of his contract this summer to ensure he stayed in Toronto for another season. Gasol honored his time in Memphis by having "Grit 'n' Grind" inscribed on his championship ring, to celebrate the many years he spent playing alongside Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph with the Grizzlies.
Anticipated fan reaction: Like Conley at the start of this season, Gasol is sure to be warmly received in his return to Bluff City. The combination of him being a beloved figure and the Grizzlies having a new guard-big man tandem to build around in Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. gives everyone a chance to just celebrate how much fun those great Grizzlies teams were and to prepare for the eventual retiring of Gasol's No. 33 jersey to the rafters of FedEx Forum.
Before he left: It's been a long 16 years for Carter and Raptors fans, as he's gone from a despised former star to an adored one. They say time heals all wounds, and that's certainly the case here, as the animosity that surrounded Carter forcing himself out of town has slowly ebbed away -- to the point that Carter was received with a thunderous standing ovation when he appeared at Scotiabank Arena during the NBA Finals.
Anticipated fan reaction: Carter will be given a resoundingly warm welcome in what is expected to be his final game in Toronto, and deservedly so. The ending might not have been great, but Carter arguably helped keep the Raptors in Toronto, and he has helped play a part in basketball's explosion in Canada over the past 20 years.
-- Tim Bontemps
Melo's tumultuous time in Houston comes full circle
Carmelo Anthony's time with the Rockets was turbulent and short-lived, but now he returns to Houston with Portland and a new outlook.
Jan. 15: Portland forward Carmelo Anthony returns to Houston
Before he left: Well, that was awkward. It took all of 10 games for Daryl Morey and the Rockets to determine that Anthony was such an awful fit that they'd be better off without him. He was that much of a disaster in Houston's switch-heavy defensive scheme. It took months for the bizarre divorce to be finalized before Houston dumped Anthony to the Bulls along with more than enough cash to pay the remainder of his minimum salary.
Fan reaction: Anthony received light, polite applause from the Toyota Center crowd when he was announced with the Blazers' starters. He had no interaction with his former Rockets teammates before tip-off.
-- Tim MacMahon
Before he left: "The most important player in franchise history" is how Westbrook has been described by Thunder general manager Sam Presti. Westbrook was the talisman for the first era of Thunder basketball, overseeing the evolution of a franchise as he simultaneously grew up right alongside it. He made history, he won awards, he won games. He planted his flag in the wake of Kevin Durant's departure, he gave a city confidence and hope, he represented something bigger than basketball. The Thunder have a firm footing in Oklahoma City and a globally recognized brand, and it's been in large part because of Westbrook.
"I honestly don't have any feelings about going back. I was only there a couple weeks. I don't really have any type of feelings going back." - Carmelo Anthony after Monday's win over Charlotte— Jamie Hudson (@JamieHudsonNBCS) January 14, 2020
More on Melo's return to Houston:https://t.co/6SL9jzRykh #RipCity pic.twitter.com/mHsqdEcAj9
Fan Reaction: The Oklahoma City Thunder had never before played a tribute video for the return of a former player. But Russell Westbrook is certainly unique. The video played before the Houston Rockets' starting lineup was introduced Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Deafening cheers and a familiar chant drowned out the introductions of the rest of the Rockets starters. "MVP! MVP! MVP!" the fans roared after Westbrook sprinted from the Rockets' bench to the opposite sideline, gestured toward the crowd and then held one finger up in the air as his Houston teammates surrounded him near the free-throw line. The cheers from the sellout crowd began even before the tribute video, which featured a variety of Westbrook highlights, fiery on-court celebrations, clips of his community involvement, memorable Instagram posts and famous quotes from his remarkable run as the Thunder's point guard. Westbrook also followed his former routine as he stepped onto the floor for the opening tip, dapping up the Thunder employees at the scorer's table before firing an imaginary arrow into the upper deck and sprinting to the corner and he worked the crowd into a frenzy again.
Westbrook gets standing ovation from Thunder fans in return
Russell Westbrook receives a video tribute and standing ovation in his return to Oklahoma City for the first time since being traded.
The Thunder and the franchise's fans also gave Paul George a warm welcome when he returned to Oklahoma City with the LA Clippers earlier this season, showing pictures of him on the arena big screens as the crowd applauded. It was a stark contrast to the venomous atmosphere for Kevin Durant's return with the Golden State Warriors. The reception for George, who pushed for a trade to the Clippers after two years in Oklahoma City, was polite. The reception for Westbrook, whose ensuing trade to Houston for Chris Paul and future first-round picks was more of a mutual decision, was passionate.
-- Tim MacMahon
Before he left: Whiteside was a classic example of a talented prospect who flamed out before being resuscitated elsewhere. He wound up playing around the world -- including in Lebanon and China -- before rejoining an NBA team when the Heat signed him in November 2014. By the end of the season, Whiteside had become a fixture in Miami's rotation, gobbling up rebounds, blocking lots of shots and finally realizing the talent in his massive, 7-foot frame. He was rewarded with a four-year max contract in the summer of 2016, and though he remained productive the past three seasons, he saw his minutes drop each season as he squabbled with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on a regular basis. Eventually, Miami shipped out Whiteside this summer in a salary dump, trading him to Portland for Maurice Harkless -- whom the Heat later moved to the Clippers -- and Meyers Leonard.
-- Tim Bontemps
Whiteside showered with boos from Miami crowd
Hassan Whiteside goes to the free throw line and hears boos from Heat fans.
Fan reaction: Whiteside received mostly boos with some cheers sprinkled in when he was announced last among the Trail Blazers' starters on Sunday. Miami fans also booed Whiteside whenever he touched the ball in the first quarter.
Before they left: When Ball was a star freshman at UCLA, his father, LaVar Ball, famously spoke it into existence that his son would complete his destiny and be drafted by the Lakers. Ball was supposed to be the centerpiece of a Showtime reboot, with Magic Johnson calling the shots and Ingram and Hart coming along for the ride. When LeBron James arrived in the summer of 2018, however, the timeline for expected success was accelerated, and by the time James told ESPN in December 2018 that it would be "amazing" if the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, everyone knew the young core's days were numbered. All three ended the 2018-19 season on the injured list, with Hart missing the last 11 games, Ingram missing the final 19 and Ball sitting the final 35 games before being sent to New Orleans in June.
Fan reaction: Ingram's, Ball's and Hart's smiling faces flashed on the video board during a first-quarter timeout Friday, as highlights from their brief Lakers careers -- from Adam Silver announcing their names on draft night to outtakes from promo spots in front of green screens to moments of on-court excellence -- flickered on the screen and fans cheered. The Lakers faithful in the stands mirrored the organization's appreciative tone, cheering Ingram and Ball when the New Orleans Pelicans' starting lineup was announced. Fans cheered when Ball made his first two attempts from 3 and provided some anticipatory oohs when James found himself matched 1-on-1 with Ball and Davis went 1-on-1 with Hart. Even two of the fringe characters from the franchise-altering trade, Rich Paul and LaVar Ball, brought a peaceful presence to the night as they sat courtside next to each other.
-- Dave McMenamin
Before he left: Over the past few seasons, Richardson became the latest success story from Miami's vaunted player development program. A second-round pick in 2015 after a four-year career at the University of Tennessee, Richardson turned himself into one of the better defensive guards in the league with the Heat -- not to mention slowly becoming a more well-rounded offensive player along the way. He was rewarded for his efforts with a four-year, $42 million extension early in September 2017 -- a deal that quickly made him into one of the league's more intriguing trade assets if the Heat were ever going to get their hands on another star player. That wound up finally happening this summer, when Richardson became the carrot with which Miami was able to execute a sign-and-trade with the 76ers to bring Jimmy Butler to South Beach. Philadelphia, on the other hand, was thrilled to get its hands on Richardson, whose low salary, length and defensive instincts -- not to mention being a career 37% 3-point shooter -- made him a perfect fit alongside Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Al Horford in a newly renovated lineup.
-- Tim Bontemps
Fan reaction: Richardson reportedly was introduced last among Philadelphia starters and received a warm ovation.
Dec. 22: Clippers forward Paul George returns to Oklahoma City
Before he left: He didn't ask to be traded to OKC, but the Thunder made a deal for him anyway with the seemingly impossible hope of persuading him to stay. And against all expectations and outside forces, he did, declaring alongside Russell Westbrook with cigars in their hands: "If you didn't quite get it ... I'm here to stay." George elevated every part of his game in OKC, playing, by his account, the best basketball of his career, becoming an MVP candidate. But the lasting image of George's tenure in OKC will be stamped with his flailing arm reaching for Damian Lillard right before Lillard's 3-pointer eliminated the Thunder in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. Lillard then waved goodbye to the Thunder as we knew them.
Fan reaction: With his name called first in starting lineups, George was greeted with a very loud, extended ovation in his return to Oklahoma City on Sunday. As George was introduced, the Thunder public-address announcer greeted him by acknowledging George's time with the franchise. The team also paid tribute to George's work in the Oklahoma City community with imagery displayed on the overhead. Prior to tipoff, George ran over to the Thunder bench to say hello to former teammates and hug coach Billy Donovan.
-- Royce Young
Before he left: No one might have exemplified Boston's awkward 2018-19 season more than Rozier. He was far from the biggest name on the roster. But after becoming a bit of a local celebrity during Boston's run to the Eastern Conference finals the season before while Kyrie Irving was hurt -- Rozier struck up a surprising friendship with former New England Patriots star Drew Bledsoe and acquired his own nickname, "Scary Terry" -- Rozier became an afterthought as Irving's backup. That, in turn, led to some frustration, as well as the likelihood that once free agency hit, Rozier would go elsewhere to become a starter ... unless Boston needed him to replace Irving. It turned out that things worked out well for both sides. When Irving left, the Celtics quickly moved to sign Kemba Walker -- and used Rozier's restricted free-agent rights to help turn the deal into a sign-and-trade that allowed Charlotte to pay Rozier $58 million over three years and give him both the starting job and the financial security he craved.
Fan reaction: Rozier had already returned to Boston once since leaving in free agency, but his official return came Sunday afternoon. "Scary Terry" got a nice ovation from the crowd when he was introduced as part of Charlotte starting lineup. Otherwise, it was business as usual, with little to no reaction whenever Rozier did anything during the game.
-- Tim Bontemps
Before he left: Brogdon started for the Bucks for the majority of the 2018-19 season, but he was diagnosed with a plantar fascia injury that sidelined him for the first two rounds of the playoffs. He rejoined the team in the Eastern Conference finals. Over the past three seasons, Brogdon played himself into the $80 million contract range. As he headed into free agency, many believed the Bucks would struggle to justify matching such a significant offer sheet, considering that they were also aiming to re-sign Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez. Brogdon wound up signing a four-year, $85 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.
-- Malika Andrews
Fan reaction: Brogdon received a warm reception from Bucks fans and ex-teammates on Sunday when the Pacers were introduced. The Bucks played a video tribute for Brogdon in the first quarter Sunday, and he waved to the crowd afterward coming out of a timeout.
The former Buck even broke out a pair of Giannis Antetokounmpo's "Black Iridescent" Zoom Freak 1 signature sneakers for the reunion in Milwaukee, as ex-teammates Middleton, Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson also embraced him with daps and hugs at half court during pregame warm-ups.
Milwaukee won its third consecutive game 117-89, with Antetokounmpo finishing one assist shy of fourth triple-double this season and 18th of his career with 18 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists. Brogdon shot 5-for-19 in his return, with 10 points, 10 assists and five turnovers. After facing Brogdon, Antetokounmpo said he sees how Brogdon has gotten better, adding that "the game has slowed down even more for him."
-- Eric Woodyard
Dec. 12: Al Horford returns to Boston
Before he left: For all of the attention that was paid to Kyrie Irving's pending departure from the Celtics, Horford was almost always seen as a lock to come back, either by picking up his option for the final year of his contract or declining it and agreeing to a new deal with Boston. Reality turned out to be a bit different. Horford decided to opt out of the final year of his deal in June, and it quickly became apparent that he and the Celtics wouldn't be agreeing on a return. Then, when free agency began, Horford stunned much of the basketball world by choosing to head down Interstate 95 and join Boston's archrivals, the Philadelphia 76ers, pairing with Joel Embiid to give the Sixers one of the league's best one-two punches in the paint. And while the Celtics were able to recover from losing Irving by signing Kemba Walker, they had no way of replacing Horford's ability to serve as a Swiss Army knife at both ends of the court.
Fan reaction: Horford didn't play in his first game back in Boston, sitting out with a sore left knee and hamstring tightness. The Celtics still acknowledged him on the Jumbotron during the game, showing Horford sitting on the bench between the first and second quarters. Horford stood and waved to the fans, receiving a rousing ovation from the Boston crowd. The ovation for Horford was expected, but it stood in stark contrast to the way the crowd reacted to Irving's absence a few weeks earlier.
-- Tim Bontemps
Dec. 12: Clippers' Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto
Kawhi grateful for Toronto reception, ring ceremony in return
Kawhi Leonard says he's appreciative of his pregame tribute and speaks on the moments he shared with former teammate Kyle Lowry.
Before he left: Leonard was a Raptor for just one season, but he helped deliver Toronto's first NBA championship, and what a ride it was. Masai Ujiri took a risk by sending one of the franchise's most popular players ever, DeMar DeRozan, to San Antonio for Leonard, and it paid off. One of the most memorable moments was when Leonard's buzzer-beater bounced off the rim four times before falling in to eliminate the 76ers and send the Raptors to the Eastern Conference finals.
Fan reaction: The Raptors showed a two-minute tribute video revisiting Leonard's championship run with his former club as fans cheered. As the lights went out, the play-by-play of Leonard's game-winning 3-pointer against the Philadelphia 76ers that sent the Raptors to the conference finals was accompanied by Leonard's retraced steps that led to the famous corner shot.
The Finals MVP then was introduced to thunderous applause as he met with his former teammates and coaches at half court as fans began to chant "MVP." Finally, good friend Kyle Lowry handed Leonard his championship ring, and the Clippers star appeared to wipe his eyes before putting the ring on.
Leonard then acknowledged the fans and raised his hands as the announcer said, "Congratulations Kawhi! The North thanks you."
-- Ohm Youngmisuk
Pelicans fans boo AD during introduction
Anthony Davis hears the boos from the crowd as he's introduced in his first game back in New Orleans.
Before he left: Davis was the best player in Pelicans history, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds over six seasons; no other active player has a streak longer than three. But after winning just one playoff series in his first six seasons, Davis decided he wanted out. He started the exit process when he let the franchise know before the trade deadline that he would not re-sign as a free agent. His seven-year tenure in New Orleans came to an end over the summer when he was dealt to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a slew of picks.
Fan reaction: As the lights dimmed in the Smoothie King Center for the national anthem and a calm came over the crowd, one Pelicans fan let Davis know exactly what he thought about his return to the city he once called home: "AD's a sellout!"
It was just a precursor to the type of night Davis was going to have as the Lakers forward played his first game in New Orleans since the trade. From the moment Davis hit the floor in warm-ups, the boos came crashing down from the top of the Smoothie King Center. Pelicans fans relentlessly booed Davis any time he touched the ball.
-- Andrew Lopez
Before he left: On paper, the offseason additions of Bogdanovic and Mike Conley Jr. put the Utah Jazz in the spotlight with one of the deeper rosters in the league. After averaging a career-best 18.0 points off 49.7% shooting in 81 games for Indiana last season, Bogdanovic inked a four-year, $73 million deal in Utah this summer. He also proved his ability to stretch the floor after shooting 42.5% from beyond the arc while shouldering the load and still leading the squad to the playoffs following the injury of All-Star guard Victor Oladipo.
Fan reaction: Indianapolis is a die-hard basketball community that isn't always kind to players outside of its fan base, but Bogdanovic was well respected for the work he put in for the Pacers, plus that toughness that's beloved in the Midwest. While Bogdanovic received cheers upon pregame introductions, he was showered with chants of "We don't miss you!" at the free throw line early in the first quarter.
-- Eric Woodyard
Before he left: When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for Butler last November, they thought he was the final piece they needed to become a championship team. They were nearly right. If Kawhi Leonard's iconic 3-point shot from the corner at Scotiabank Arena doesn't somehow fall through the basket, perhaps the Sixers win that game and go on to their first championship in more than 30 years. But Leonard's shot did fall through, of course, and Philadelphia saw its season end in heartbreak instead. Butler then wound up leaving Philly this summer, going to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade for guard Josh Richardson, part of the latest dramatic makeover of Philadelphia's roster over the past few years.
Fan reaction: The fans in Philadelphia gave a loud, angry greeting to Butler upon his return to the City of Brotherly Love, showering him with boos as he was introduced. Butler, who went to the Heat in a sign-and-trade in the offseason that brought Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, exchanged a long, friendly greeting with Sixers star Joel Embiid prior to the opening tip. Then, when the game started, Butler was loudly booed every time he touched the ball, as the fans here lived up to their longstanding reputation as one of the toughest crowds in the league.
-- Tim Bontemps
Before they left: Parting with a treasure trove of five first-round picks and the right to swap two more first-round picks for Paul George wasn't easy for the Clippers. But having to part with promising point guard Gilgeous-Alexander made the haul the Clippers gave up feel even more enormous. The Clippers were extremely high on SGA, and they loved the popular Gallinari, who also was part of the deal and beloved in the locker room. SGA's return to Staples Center will remind the Clippers of how promising his future is and what they had to give up.
Fan reaction: It was a homecoming of sorts for three Thunder players. Chris Paul heard boos during the starting lineup introduction, but fans welcomed former Clippers Gilgeous-Alexander and Gallinari back with warm applause. The Clippers also played a welcome back video during the first break in action. Among the highlights was Gallinari spraying the Clippers' locker room with champagne and Gilgeous-Alexander in his suit on draft night. Doc Rivers loved coaching both, especially the young point guard.
"I think he's going to be a superstar; I said that last year, so I'm not breaking news here," Rivers said. "But you rarely get a kid that's such a good person, easy to coach, wants to get better. For me, those are the guys that give you life in coaching. There's times when you just want to quit and retire, go home, and then there's times you want to coach forever, and guys like Shai allow that."
-- Ohm Youngmisuk
Conley showered with cheers in Memphis return
Mike Conley receives a standing ovation as he's introduced for the first time as a visitor at the FedExForum.
Before he left: Conley was the last man left standing from Memphis' beloved "Core Four," having seen the Grizzlies bid farewell to fellow Grit 'n' Grind mainstays Zach Randolph and Tony Allen a couple of summers ago and trade Marc Gasol to Toronto before last season's deadline. It became clear to Conley that the time had come for him to move on from Tennessee, where he hoped to spend his entire career, particularly after he watched Gasol win a ring with the Raptors. The Grizzlies' lottery luck that allowed them to land Ja Morant with the No. 2 overall pick ensured that Conley would be traded, and the Jazz jumped on the opportunity to seal a deal they had tried to make before the deadline, sending rebuilding Memphis a package headlined by a pair of first-round picks.
Fan reaction: The FedExForum public-address announcer had the same enthusiasm calling out Conley's name in the starting lineup as he did when he played for the Grizzlies. The crowd, which included a lot of fans wearing Memphis No. 11 jerseys, greeted Conley with a thunderous standing ovation. Conley got an even longer, louder standing ovation after his tribute video played during the first timeout, touching on the highlights of his 12-year tenure with the Grizzlies and tremendous impact on the Memphis community, including opening a sickle cell treatment center. Conley was clearly touched, deeply exhaling as he dealt with his emotions.
-- Tim MacMahon
Porzingis on boos: The crowd was loud
Kristaps Porzingis comments on his return to Madison Square Garden and the reaction from Knicks fans.
Before he left: It all started in late January 2019, and it escalated quickly. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne reported that Porzingis had met with Knicks management and expressed discontent with losing and the franchise's overall direction. At the time, Porzingis was not playing because of an ACL tear. Porzingis gave the Knicks the impression he wanted to be traded. Two hours later, the Mavericks and Knicks were nearing a trade to deal Porzingis to Dallas in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr. and taking on the contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews. The Knicks also sent Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to the Mavs.
Fan reaction: Porzingis' prediction of a negative reception upon returning to New York came to fruition. Fans in a sold-out Madison Square Garden booed and taunted Porzingis at every opportunity. A few fans interrupted the national anthem to shout things like "Traitor" and "Go back to Latvia." They booed him loudly every time he touched the ball and every time he took a shot. When Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle pulled Porzingis from the floor midway through the first quarter, one fan screamed, "Put Porzingis back in so I can boo him!"
-- Malika Andrews
Nov. 7: Celtics guard Kemba Walker returns to Charlotte
Before he left: Kemba Walker is a cherished member of the community in Charlotte, North Carolina, after eight seasons with the Hornets. He was heavily involved in charitable efforts, including with the local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter. On the court, he is the Hornets' all-time leading scorer and led the team to the playoffs twice. Walker was heading into free agency, and the Hornets weren't going to offer the supermax, which might or might not have kept him in Charlotte. Once it was determined that Walker was headed to Boston, a sign-and-trade was arranged to bring Terry Rozier to Charlotte. -- Eric Woodyard
Fan reaction: After the rest of his teammates and coach Brad Stevens were introduced, Walker was honored with a 100-second tribute video that was accompanied by multiple standing ovations from the crowd. When it was over, Hornets public-address announcer Patrick Doughty gave Walker the introduction he always did during his eight-year tenure in Charlotte, which was met with yet another standing ovation. Walker appeared to wipe away a tear before huddling up with his new Celtics teammates. --
-- Tim Bontemps
Oct. 28: Thunder guard Chris Paul returns to Houston
Before he left: CP3's hamstring strain that sidelined him for the final two games of the 2018 Western Conference finals will always be one of the great what-ifs in Houston sports history. He was playing at a superstar level at the time, but he slipped significantly last season, when the Rockets' iso-heavy offense suddenly didn't suit him so well. There was some well-documented creative tension with James Harden, but that isn't why the Rockets traded Paul. They pounced on the opportunity to get a talent upgrade when Russell Westbrook surprisingly became available.
Fan reaction: The typically late-arriving Toyota Center crowd offered polite applause with Paul was introduced with the Thunder's starting lineup. After a tribute video played during the first timeout, most of the fans showered Paul with a standing ovation, which he acknowledged with a wave.
-- Tim MacMahon