NBA

2020-21 NBA schedule: A look at notable stars returning to face former teams

The 2020-21 NBA season is set to begin on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The league has released the first half of the 72-game schedule for all 30 NBA teams, meaning we can now circle a few dates on our calendars in anticipation of compelling matchups between stars and their former teams.

There was plenty of movement in this unique offseason and some of the league's most familiar faces now call new places home, a product of both trades and free agency.

Unlike any other year, these players will not be met with the adulation - or fury - of the fans in arenas in which they suited up to play 41 nights a year, as the majority of NBA teams will begin the 2020-21 season without fans in the crowd.

Still, there is always a heightened level of intrigue when a player takes on his former team. Here are some of the biggest "return" games from the first half of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Montrezl Harrell

Los Angeles Lakers vs. LA Clippers

Date: Dec. 22, 2020

While this is technically a home game for the defending champions, the definition of a "return" can be applied loosely when a player moves across the hall. That's exactly what Harrell did, as he opted to sign with the Lakers after spending the last three seasons as a Clipper.

There will always be mutual respect between Harrell and his former teammates but his decision to join the Lakers adds yet another dynamic to an already-brewing rivalry.

Steven Adams

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Date: Dec. 31, 2020

Oklahoma City bid farewell to the vast majority of key players from its magical run in the 2019-20 season but none had a connection to the franchise quite like Adams.

For one, Adams spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career as a member of the Thunder, developing into one of the fiercest bigs in the league after being selected No. 12 overall in 2013. In many ways, Adams was the lone constant, having played in four different eras of Thunder basketball: The Westbrook-KD Era, Westbrook's MVP season, two seasons of Westbrook and Paul George and, finally, last season with Chris Paul at the helm.

Moving Adams was the true end of an era in OKC.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns

Date: Jan. 15, 2021

There aren't too many players in the league that exude an energy similar to that of Kelly Oubre Jr. In just 96 games as a Sun, Oubre embraced the Valley of the Sun just as it embraced him, as he played a large role in harbouring the "Valley Boyz" culture.

Now, Oubre is set to face his former team as a member of a divisional foe in The Bay, as the Warriors hope to find themselves jockeying for playoff positioning with a much-improved Suns team.

John Wall vs. Russell Westbrook

Houston Rockets vs. Washington Wizards

Date: Jan. 26, 2021

As two of the most electrifying point guards to ever lace them up, it was always intriguing whenever Wall would meet Westbrook. Now that the two have been traded for one another, this matchup might inevitably be viewed as a deciding factor of which franchise won the trade, however right or wrong that may be.

While Westbrook spent just one season in Houston, there is sure to be plenty of emotion for Wall, who spent 10 years in D.C. after being selected first overall in 2010.

Jrue Holiday

Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Date: Jan. 29, 2021

For seven years, Holiday was the heart and soul of the Pelicans franchise.

The city of New Orleans loved Jrue Holiday and Jrue Holiday loved the city of New Orleans right back. Fans might not be present at the Smoothie King Center when the Bucks take on the Pelicans but it will be fun to see Holiday go against so many of the players that he mentored last season.

It should be an exciting game, as New Orleans is an up-and-comer while its title or bust for Milwaukee.

Kevin Durant

Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors

Date: Feb. 13, 2021

Durant is set to face his former team for the first time on opening night but it will be another few months until he returns to The Bay.

The Warriors are in a new building but it'll be KD's first time playing in Golden State since he went down with a calf injury against the Houston Rockets in the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals. It's always fun to watch Durant play, and, however wrong it may have looked at the time, it'll feel right to see him get buckets with the royal blue and yellow backdrop of the Chase Center.

Serge Ibaka

LA Clippers vs. Toronto Raptors

Date: TBD (Second half of season)

For three-and-a-half seasons, Ibaka was one of the most crucial members of the Raptors franchise, both as a performer and leader on the court and a voice off of the court.

Anytime a title is won with a group, a special bond will always exist. There is sure to be plenty of emotion as Ibaka faces several of his championship teammates and his championship coach for the first time. The only thing missing is an opportunity for the Scotiabank Arena crowd to show its appreciation.

Marc Gasol

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Toronto Raptors

Date: TBD (Second half of season)

As a champion and an individual that embraced the community, it's no secret that Marc Gasol left a lasting legacy with the Raptors.

Like Ibaka, he may not get the opportunity to receive the adulation of Toronto fans but the emotion present between Big Spain and his former championship teammates should be enough in the interim.

Danny Green and Dwight Howard

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Date: TBD (Second half of season)

After winning a title with the Lakers both Green and Howard find themselves in Philly, albeit through different means.

Green, a trade acquisition and Howard, a free-agent signing, are set to face a Lakers team that found ways to improve despite losing key members. It's unclear whether or not a ring will be handed out but the Sixers and Lakers are two teams that are sure to battle, with the former Lakers likely having a little extra they want to show.

Gordon Hayward

Charlotte Hornets vs. Boston Celtics

Date: TBD (Second half of season)

After donning the kelly green for three seasons, Hayward opted out of the final year of his contract to begin the next chapter of his career. That chapter reads for the Hornets, an up-and-coming team looking to snap a three-year postseason drought.

Adding a layer to this one is that the Celtics feature the greatest Hornet of all-time in Kemba Walker - hopefully healthy - who had an emotional return to Charlotte in 2019.

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