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NBA PM: Two Stints With One Team

Kevin Garnett is heading back to Minnesota. Which other players have had two stints with the same team? … Nik Stauskas struggling through rookie season…

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Yesterday’s trade deadline was a doozey, with 11 deals going down and Philadelphia acquiring half a million draft picks to add to the half a million they already own. Of all those deals, however, two of the most interesting were the ones that sent a couple of veterans back to the teams that drafted them: Kevin Garnett to Minnesota and Tayshaun Prince to Detroit.

Of course, there have been plenty of other notable players who have spent two completely separate and unrelated stints with one team. It actually has become rather common. Guys get traded away from a team or decide to sign a free agency contract somewhere else, but fate pulls them back to where they started. In some cases, it happens twice in a player’s career.

It’s not hard to understand why—a player gets familiar with a franchise and vice versa. If a relationship was there once and it wasn’t totally ruined (and even in some cases where it was), that player is welcomed back, almost always as a fan favorite. People like homecomings. They make a great story.

So here’s a list of the most notable players to spend two or more tours with one team:

#5 – Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (1994-1996, 2008-2012) – Despite the fact that Kidd led the league in triple-doubles his rookie season and split the Rookie of the Year award with Grant Hill in 1995, Dallas’s vision of building a team around Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson never really came to fruition, so they traded him to Phoenix very early in his career for several players, including Michael Finley and Sam Cassell. Twelve years later, after spending his best professional years in Phoenix and New Jersey, the Mavericks traded for a 34-year-old Kidd in the hopes adding him to a good veteran team would help push them to a championship. In 2011, he finally won that championship with the team that drafted him.

#4 – Derek Fisher, L.A. Lakers (1996-2004, 2007-2012) – Fisher entered free agency in 2004 with quite a lot to consider. Yes, he had been a key part of three championship teams in L.A. and was a fan favorite, but with waning playing time, Shaquille O’Neal being traded to the HEAT, and Kobe Bryant seriously considering testing free agency himself, Fisher felt it was time to move on. Considering the Golden State Warriors offered him three extra years, $22 million extra bucks, and a guaranteed starting role, Fisher had no choice but to leave. Fewer than three seasons later, now a member of the Utah Jazz, Fisher’s daughter was be diagnosed with a disease that simply couldn’t be treated properly in Salt Lake City. Fisher requested his release so he could move to a city in which medical specialists were nearby. Benevolently, the Jazz acquiesced, and guess what city had the best combination of doctors and basketball prowess? Before the 2007-2008, Fisher re-signed with the Lakers and played in three straight NBA Finals, winning two more rings with L.A.

#3 – Mark Jackson, Indiana Pacers (1994-1996, 1997-2000) – Grabbing Mark Jackson from the Clippers in 1994 proved to be a fantastic move for the Pacers, but when they got the opportunity to move him for Jalen Rose a couple years later, they just couldn’t say no. Turns out maybe they should have, because the team immediately dropped out of the playoff picture and stunk so badly that the team re-traded for him less than a year later. In just a couple of seasons, they’d be in the Finals—the only Finals appearance of Jackson’s career.

#2 – Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (1996-1998, 2004-2012) – Nash was okay in his first two seasons in the league with Phoenix, but he wasn’t necessarily a show-stopper yet. Still, he was good enough for Dallas to give up three players and a first-round pick for him, and it was in Dallas that Nash really made a name for himself. After the 2004 season, however, Mark Cuban’s Mavs felt that a high-priced, long-term extension for a 30-year-old point guard simply wasn’t the smartest business decision, but they couldn’t have known how very wrong they’d be. Nash locked back in with the Suns instead, won two MVP awards, and stayed relevant deep into his late 30s.

#1 – Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets (1998-2000, 2008-2011) and Detroit Pistons (2002-2008, 2013-2014) – If someone asked Billups with which team he would have liked to retire, he without question would have chosen his hometown Denver Nuggets or the Detroit Pistons, the team that got him his ring. He went to college in Colorado (Boulder), played some pretty un-miraculous pro ball there for two years in the late ’90s, and made his triumphant return in the Allen Iverson trade back in 2008. With Detroit he was the Finals MVP the year the Pistons won the title, and that endeared him enough to that franchise to bring him back for a farewell tour in 2013-2014. In other words, two teams loved him enough to give him a second chance, which is why he sits atop this list.

Honorable Mention:

Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls (1987-1998, 2003-2004) – After leaving the Bulls in 1998 when Michael Jordan retired, Pippen saw some success with the Houston Rockets and especially the Portland Trail Blazers. In his last season as a pro, however, Chicago brought him back so he could retire in Chicago. This was in 2003 when there wasn’t a lot of good things happening with the Bulls, and at 38 years old Pippen didn’t have a whole lot of gas left in the tank. Still, it was nice to see a legend finish his career in the city that made him a star.

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (1996-2006, 2010) – Starting in 2004, Iverson began having some problems with the Sixers, for whom he had previously led to the NBA Finals and won an MVP trophy. Over the next 24 months those issues would continue to escalate, with Iverson skipping practices, showing up late to games and missing corporate sponsorships off the court. It eventually led to a trade with the Denver Nuggets, where Iverson still managed to score a ton of points in his first season outside of Philly. In the next few seasons, though, he’d end up in Detroit and (very briefly) Memphis—none of which worked out well for him. In the latter portion of his last NBA season, Iverson’s former team gave him a chance to redeem himself and brought The Answer back to Philadelphia. It would be the last 25 games he’d play in the league.

Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics (1996-2003, 2005) – Despite the fact Walker and Boston teammate Paul Pierce had seen huge success in their years together on the Celtics, by 2003 it was starting to become clear that the duo wasn’t going to win a championship. Walker was traded to Dallas, where he didn’t play anywhere near the minutes he was accustomed to, and then moved again that offseason to Atlanta. After only a half a season with the Hawks, the Celtics re-acquired him, played him for 24 games, then shipped him off yet again the next summer as part of the largest trade (13 players) in league history.

Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons (2001-2006, 2009-2012) – Wallace won a championship, made four All-Star teams and won NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times while a member of the Detroit Pistons the first time around, but the minute he signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Chicago Bulls in the summer of 2006, he seemed to have lost much of his former athleticism. The Pistons brought him back in 2009 out of sheer desperation for size, and Big Ben performed fairly well in his second go-round with Detroit—albeit without that fantastic afro.

Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic (2004-2009, 2010-2013) – Turkoglu undoubtedly played his best pro ball as a key member of the 2009 Magic team that made the NBA Finals. But that was a contract year for Turkoglu, and he turned his great performance into a monster contract with the Toronto Raptors. It wouldn’t work out well for Turkoglu in Canada, and he’d be traded to the Phoenix Suns just a year later. Less than a year after that, the Magic reacquired him and, somehow, Turkoglu found a way to revitalize himself briefly before finally flaming out for good.

Here are some other notable players who did two separate stints with the same team:

  • Shane Battier, Memphis Grizzlies (2001-2006, 2011)
  • Brad Miller, Chicago Bulls (2000-2002, 2009-2010)
  • Manute Bol, Washington Bullets (1985-1988, 1993), Golden State Warriors (1988-1990, 1994-1995), Philadelphia 76ers (1990-1993, 1994)
  • Al Harrington, Indiana Pacers (1998-2004, 2006)
  • Joe Smith, Philadelphia 76ers (1998, 2006-2007), Minnesota Timberwolves (1998-2000, 2001-2003), Cleveland Cavaliers (2008, 2009)
  • Derrick Coleman, Philadelphia 76ers (1995-1998, 2001-2004)
  • Artis Gilmore, Chicago Bulls (1978-1982, 1987)
  • Horace Grant, Orlando Magic (1994-1999, 2001-2003)
  • Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks (1985-1991, 1995-1996)
  • Tim Thomas, New York Knicks (2004-2005, 2008-2009), Chicago Bulls (2005, 2009)
  • A.C. Green, L.A. Lakers (1985-1993, 1999-2000)
  • Chris Gatling, Miami HEAT (1996, 2001-2002)
  • Delonte West, Boston Celtics (2004-2007, 2010)
  • Steve Blake, Portland Trail Blazers (2005-2006, 2007-2010)
  • Theo Ratliff, Detroit Pistons (1995-1997, 2007-2008), Philadelphia 76ers (1997-2001, 2008-2009)
  • Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls (2003-2010, 2012-present)
  • Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies (2002-2008, 2013-2014)

To date, no team has ever acquired a player three separate times, but that would certainly set a new bar for this sort of thing.

Conversely, journeyman Jim Jackson played for 12 different NBA teams, but never the same one twice. Not everybody finds a home.

For Garnett, though, Minnesota is home, as is Detroit for Tayshaun Prince. As those guys enter the last useful bits of their careers, it must surely be nice to wrap things up in familiar environs.

Nik Stauskas Struggling Through Rookie Season

While the Sacramento Kings did make a move at the trade deadline this year, swapping out Ramon Sessions for Andre Miller, there were certainly plenty of rumors that rookie Nik Stauskas could have been sent packing, as well.

Ultimately the Kings decided to keep the former lottery pick, who has struggled in his first NBA season, averaging only 3.4 PPG in a scant 13.6 minutes per night. Even Stauskas, who was an NCAA star at the University of Michigan, admits that he’s having a hard time making the adjustment to the pros.

“The speed and physicality of everyone goes up a level in the NBA, but you just have to be ready for when you get your opportunity because there aren’t as many opportunities as I had in college,” Stauskas said. “In college I could afford to turn down some shots because I would still get my 10-15 attempts throughout the game, and here some games you come in, you might only get one or two attempts. That has kind of been the case for me this year, and I’ve had a tough time being ready for those opportunities sometimes.”

Despite a slow start to his professional career, Stauskas does seem to have a grasp on what he needs to do to be more effective in the Sacramento rotation.

“I’ve never been selfish, so the problem with me now is I have to think a little bit more selfishly to get my shot off sometimes,” Stauskas said. “That is not who I am as a player, so that has been the toughest part. Like I said, I’m used to having a high-efficiency game where I turn down shots, where it may be an okay shot but I know I’ll get a better shot later. Now, I don’t know if I’m going to get that better shot later, so it’s just finding the equal balance of knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be.”

Of course, part of the problem is that Stauskas is now on his third head coach in just his first season in the league. The firing of Mike Malone earlier this year definitely threw him off.

“It just kind of caught everyone off guard because we didn’t really see it coming,” Stauskas said of Malone being fired. “As far as our system and the way we played, it didn’t really change too much. I think more mentally, it was just having to stay ready and just realizing that it is a business and that any of us can be dropped at any point.”

Two head coaches and a handful of teammates have moved on from Sacramento this year, and Stauskas easily could have been another casualty had he been traded by Thursday afternoon.

Now, it’s just a matter of salvaging whatever he can out of the rest of a pretty forgettable year by most accounts.

“It just really has been an up and down season,” he said. “We started off 9-5 and things were going really well, but then DeMarcus (Cousins) got sick a little bit and missed a lot of games, and then our coach got fired, so there has been a lot of changes around here.

“For me it’s just been about keeping a positive attitude all the time and just working hard. We’ve lost a lot of games, so this is kind of the low part of our season so far, but we just have got to keep working through it. We still have 20-something games left, so we have a lot to look forward to.”

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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