The 2023 NBA trade deadline brought a flurry of player movement, but many of the players that were traded are heading to familiar destinations. A handful of deals reunited players with teams they played for previously, resurfacing nostalgia and some interesting history about how those relationships ended the first time.
D'Angelo Russell getting dealt back to the Los Angeles Lakers, Spencer Dinwiddie returning to the Brooklyn Nets and John Wallreuniting with the Houston Rockets are just a few of the homecomings from this year's trade deadline.
It's too soon to tell whether these trades will be fortuitous for the players and teams involved, or whether the players even wanted to return to those teams. But for now, we are revisiting the history of their previous stints to put into context what situations they may be returning to.
Russell heads back to Los Angeles as part of a hefty trade package. Russell began his career in Los Angeles when the Lakers drafted him with the second-overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft out of Ohio State. Russell started 108 games in two seasons for the Lakers, but his stint was marred by a 2016 incident with then-teammate Nick Young, whenRussell leaked a video of Young admitting to cheating on rapper Iggy Azalea, whom Young was engaged to at the time. Russell was then traded to the Nets in the 2016 offseason.
Now, Russell is on a Lakers team that is very different from the one that drafted him, as he will join LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a quest to turn the team's season around. But he won't have to share a locker room with Young, who is no longer in the league.
Spencer Dinwiddie to the Brooklyn Nets
Dinwiddie returned to Brooklyn as part of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks. Dinwiddie originally signed with the Nets in December 2016 as a reserve point guard, but became an impact backcourt player alongside Russell over the next four seasons and helped spark a turnaround that got them back to the playoffs in 2019. Dinwiddie was then acquired by the Washington Wizards in August 2021 as part of the five-team trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, then was dealt to the Mavericks at the 2022 trade deadline.
Now, Dinwiddie returns to a Nets team that just initiated a midseason rebuild with the trades of Irving and Kevin Durantand will likely be an important veteran presence and starter given the state of the team's current roster.
John Wall to the Houston Rockets
Wall was dealt back to the Rockets as part of a three-team trade between Houston, the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. Wall was originally traded from the Wizards to the Rockets in 2020 in exchange for Westbrook. Wall's tenure in Houston resulted in a mutual buyout agreement at the end of the 2021-22 season, as the team wanted to prioritize playing time for young guards Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. Wall opened up about his feelings on his short tenure in Houston during an appearance on the "Run Your Race" podcast, calling the organization "beyond trash."
Now, Wall is headed back to the Rockets, who are one of the NBA's worst teams this year and still heavily in a rebuilding process that he wanted to exit last season.
George Hill to the Indiana Pacers
The Milwaukee Bucks shipped Hill back to Indiana, along with Serge Ibaka and Jordan Nwora, for Jae Crowder and a bevy of picks. Hill originally played for the Pacers from 2011 to 2016 as a complement player to Paul George on the Indiana teams that were perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference, but could never reach the Finals. Hill has played for six different teams since being traded to the Utah Jazz in the 2016 offseason, including two different stints with the Pacers' rival Bucks.
Now, Hill is returning to an Indiana club that is looking to make another playoff push, and he brings some veteran experience in that regard to a much younger squad than the one he left in 2016.
Payton was a critical role player on Golden State's championship team last year, achieving career highs in games played (71) and points per game (7.1). Payton signed a three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers this past offseason, but was dealt back to the Warriors just half a season into that contract as part of the three-team deal that sent James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons. Payton could end up playing a lot more minutes with the Warriors in the coming weeks due to Stephen Curry's left leg injury.
Eric Gordon to the LA Clippers
Gordon departed Houston to return to a Clippers team he hasn't been a part of since he was drafted by the franchise with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. Gordon had a promising career with a rookie max extension well within reach but the Clippers had their eye on more veteran talent while title chasing. Gordon was sent to the then-New Orleans Hornets as part of the blockbuster trade that brought Chris Paul to L.A. in 2011.
Now, the 34-year-old will be paired with Kawhi Leonard and George on a team stacked with veterans hoping to be title contenders out of the West.
Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors
Poeltl reunites with the Raptors in a trade that sent center Khem Birch to the San Antonio Spurs along with picks. Poeltl began his NBA career with the Raptors in 2016 before being traded to the Spurs in the 2018 offseason as part of the package with DeMar DeRozan that sent Leonard to Toronto. Poeltl's production has hit another level dating back to last season in San Antonio, as he had become a regular starter averaging almost 13 points per game.
Now, Poeltl will get a chance to apply that experience and development for a Raptors team that is looking for a dependable center to anchor their play-in tournament chances.
T.J. Warren to the Phoenix Suns
Warren returns to Phoenix as part of a blockbuster deal that included Durant as a package deal from the Nets. The Nets received Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Crowder and a plethora of picks. Warren began his career with the Suns as the 14th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft and was traded to the Pacers in 2019 for cash considerations. He expressed his feelings about the move in 2020. "It is very disrespectful ... to see me get traded for that, no one wants to get traded for cash."
The Boston Celtics sent Jackson back to the Thunder, including two draft picks, for Mike Muscala. Jackson played 33 games for the Thunder in the 2020-21 season. It's likely the Thunder waive Jackson to open up a roster spot.