Kyrie Irving headlines players facing former team in NBA playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The NBA playoffs offer teams a chance to chase history. For some players, the postseason will give them an opportunity to confront it.
The eight series for the 2022 first round are loaded with players up against their former team. Some of them are celebrated by their old cities and organizations, while other fan bases will be eager to root against them when they return to their old stomping grounds.
Before the playoffs officially get underway, here’s a guide to the players who are battling their former team:
No. 8 Atlanta Hawks/Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 1 Miami Heat
There are no Cavs-Heat connections, but there is a Hawks-Heat link.
Backup Heat center Dewayne Dedmon played two and a half seasons in Atlanta. He joined the Hawks in 2017 and started 98 games over two years. He started the 2019-20 season in Sacramento after signing a three-year, $40 million deal with the Kings, but he demanded a trade less than three months into his first season. Sacramento fulfilled his request, trading him to Atlanta in February 2020.
After finishing out that season with the Hawks, he signed with Miami at the tail end of the 2020-21 campaign.
No. 7 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 2 Boston Celtics
For the second year in a row, Kyrie Irving will square off against his former squad in a first-round series.
Irving played in Boston from 2017 to 2019 before teaming up with Kevin Durant on the Nets. He got a chance to stomp on the No. 7 Celtics – literally and figuratively – as the No. 2 Nets routed the Celtics in a five-game gentleman’s sweep.
The two teams are up against each other in the first round once again this year, but the seeds have been flipped. Boston was among the best teams in basketball over the last three months en route to the No. 2 seed, while Brooklyn’s roller-coaster season led them to the play-in tournament. By beating the Cavaliers on Tuesday, the Nets set up the marquee first-round series of these playoffs, one where someone will earn some highly coveted bragging rights.
For Boston, Nik Stauskas is the only current Celtic to have played for the Nets. He suited up for Brooklyn in 35 games during the 2017-18 season.
No. 6 Chicago Bulls vs. No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks
The only player in the first-round Bucks-Bulls series who has played for both organizations is Bobby Portis. The forward was a first-round pick for Chicago in the 2015 draft and was with the organization for his first four NBA seasons.
After a year with the Washington Wizards and one with the New York Knicks, Portis joined Milwaukee in 2020. Portis wound up playing an important bench role as the Bucks won the 2021 Finals, marking their first championship in 50 years. Now, Portis and Co. will look to bounce the Bulls on their path to repeating.
No. 5 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 4 Philadelphia 76ers
Each side has a veteran player who once wore the other team’s jersey.
Sixers guard Danny Green spent one memorable season in Toronto. He and Kawhi Leonard were dealt to the Raptors before the 2018-19 NBA season and wound up winning the franchise’s first NBA title. That playoff run featured an epic second-round series against the Sixers, which ended with Leonard’s iconic Game 7 buzzer-beater.
Raptors forward Thad Young hasn’t played for the Sixers since 2014, but he was part of the era that helped shape the next decade for Philadelphia. Young spent his first seven seasons with the Sixers as the franchise began embarking on “The Process.” The team won just 19 games in his last year with the team and went on to win just 18 and 10 games over the next two seasons, respectively.
No. 8 New Orleans Pelicans/Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 1 Phoenix Suns
No matter who wins Friday’s Pelicans-Clippers play-in contest, Chris Paul is going to face one of his former teams in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
Paul began his career with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in 2005 and spent his first six NBA seasons with the organization before heading to Los Angeles to form the Lob City Clippers.
CP3 had short stints in Houston and Oklahoma City before arriving in Phoenix, where he led the Suns to the NBA Finals in his first season. After cruising to a 64-18 regular season record, Paul has his sights on an NBA title in his second Suns season.
There are two more Suns connections for both the Pelicans and Clippers. On the New Orleans side, Suns guard Elfrid Payton spent the 2018-19 season with the Pelicans and Pelicans guard Jared Harper started his NBA career with the Suns in 2019. On the Los Angeles side, Suns guard Landry Shamet played for the Clippers for two seasons and Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. spent two and a half seasons in Phoenix.
No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies
Two young Grizzlies will be looking to send their former team packing in the first round.
Tyus Jones played his first four NBA seasons in Minnesota before joining Memphis in 2019.
Jarrett Culver, meanwhile, landed in Minnesota as part of a 2020 NBA Draft day trade with the Suns. After two seasons with the Timberwolves, he was traded once again. Memphis landed Culver and Juancho Hernangomez while sending Patrick Beverley to Minnesota.
While this could technically count as a Beverley revenge series, he was only with Memphis for two days. He was traded to the Grizzlies on Aug. 15 and traded to the Timberwolves on Aug. 17.
No. 6 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 3 Golden State Warriors
Like the Sixers-Raptors series, Warriors-Nuggets will give a veteran player on each team a chance to face their former squad.
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala played with the Nuggets for just one season. The team tallied the third-most regular season wins in franchise history by going 57-25, but they lost their first-round series to – who else – the Warriors.
Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins was with the Warriors in 2018-19 as the team was aiming for a three-peat. Cousins played just 30 regular season games due to injury and suffered another one during Golden State’s first-round series against the Clippers. He returned for the NBA Finals, which Leonard, Green and the Raptors won in six games.
No. 5 Utah Jazz vs. No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
Trey Burke is the only player with a past connection in the Mavs-Jazz series. The guard was sent to the Jazz in a draft day trade back in 2013 and spent his first three NBA seasons in Utah. After stints with the Wizards, Knicks, Mavericks and Sixers from 2016 to 2019, he has stuck with Dallas since 2020.