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NBA

NBA Schedule 2019-20: When Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and other stars return to their former teams

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Westbrook, Leonard, Irving (NBA Getty Images)

There has been a lot of player movement at the top of the NBA this offseason.

In the case of Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving, they changed teams as unrestricted free agents. As for the likes of Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Mike Conley, they have found their way onto new teams via trade.

Now that the schedule has been released for the 2019-20 season, here's when they and other notable stars will return to play their former teams for the first time.

Chris Paul returns to Houston

Date: Oct. 29

Paul was involved in one of the biggest trades of the offseason, with him going to Oklahoma City in exchange for Russell Westbrook.

Short-lived as Paul's time with the Rockets was, he almost helped lead them to their first Finals appearance in over 20 years. He gave Houston a 3-2 lead in its Western Conference Finals series with the Golden State Warriors in 2018 with a gutsy Game 5 performance. A hamstring injury then sidelined him for the final two games of the series, paving the way for a Warriors comeback and another championship.

Kemba Walker returns to Charlotte

Date: Nov. 8

A return to the Hornets once seemed inevitable for Walker, but he chose to sign with the Celtics in free agency this offseason instead. Walker leaves as Charlotte's all-time leader in a number of categories, from minutes played and points scored to win shares. Expect him to be showered with applause.

Kristaps Porzingis returns to New York

Date: Nov. 15

Porzingis returns to where his NBA career started.

The Latvian's time with the Knicks got off to a promising start, with him developing into an All-Star by his third season. However, that season was cut short due to a torn ACL, and looking to open up cap space ahead of free agency, the Knicks decided to move on from him leading up to last season's trade deadline.

Look for Porzingis to make a statement in his return to Madison Square Garden, both to remind the Knicks and to show the Mavericks what he's capable of.

Mike Conley returns to Memphis

Date: Nov. 16

For the first time in his NBA career, Conley won't be wearing a Grizzlies uniform next season. The No. 4 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Conley blossomed into one of the league's best points guards during his 12 years with the team.

Conley will be remembered as one of the greatest players in franchise history - if not the greatest.

Jimmy Butler returns to Philadelphia

Date: Nov. 24

The 76ers have been among the most active teams in the league this offseason, due in large part to Butler's desire to play for the Heat. With the Heat not having the cap space to outright sign Butler as a free agent, a sign-and-trade was the only way to make it happen.

Butler only appeared in 55 games with the 76ers in the regular season, joining them by way of trade from the Timberwolves early in the season, but he played a key role in them pushing the Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and coming only a few bounces away from potentially advancing.

Anthony Davis returns to New Orleans

Date: Nov. 28

It was only a matter of time until the Pelicans traded Davis - the six-time All-Star requested a trade in the middle of last season - and he now finds himself on a Lakers team that is among the favourites to win the NBA title next season.

Davis returns to New Orleans following seven seasons with the team. He became a six-time All-Star and earned three-time All-NBA selections in a Pelicans uniform.

Kyrie Irving returns to Boston

Date: Nov. 28

Irving will return to Boston the same day that Davis returns to New Orleans.

Irving's time with the Celtics didn't end on the best of terms, as Boston lost four straight games to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after a tumultuous regular season.

Adding to the intrigue of this matchup is the Celtics replaced Irving with another All-Star point guard in free agency in Kemba Walker.

Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto

Date: Dec. 12

One of the more anticipated games of next season's calendar, Leonard returns to Toronto for the first time since leaving the franchise for the Clippers in free agency. Leonard was only a Raptor for a season but it was a memorable one, with him going on a historic run in the playoffs that culminated in him winning his second title and Finals MVP.

The Clippers can only hope that Leonard's return to Toronto goes better than his return to San Antonio did last season - the Spurs blew the Raptors out by a final score of 125-107 and Leonard had one of his least productive games of the season.

Al Horford returns to Boston

Date: Dec. 13

Not only was it a surprise to see Horford decline his player option for the 2019-20 season to become an unrestricted free agent, it was a surprise to see him join a 76ers team that's built around one of the best centres in the NBA in Joel Embiid. Unusual as the fit might be in today's NBA, Horford chose to leave the Celtics following three seasons for another contender.

Paul George returns to Oklahoma City

Date: Dec. 23

Despite being only a year removed from signing a four-year, $137 million extension with the franchise, George requested a trade from the Thunder this offseason, leading him to his hometown Clippers, where he's joined forces with Kawhi Leonard to form a superteam.

Similar to Leonard, George's time with the Thunder was short, but he was still able to make an impact, with him being a finalist for both MVP and DPOY in 2018-19.

Russell Westbrook returns to Oklahoma City

Date: Jan. 10

Following 11 seasons in Oklahoma City, Westbrook was traded from the Thunder to the Rockets this offseason for Chris Paul. In addition to being a one-time MVP and an eight-time All-Star with the Thunder, Westbrook leaves as the franchise's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Hall of Famer Gary Payton late last season.

D'Angelo Russell returns to Brooklyn

Date: Feb. 6

In one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, the Warriors acquired Russell via sign-and-trade with the Nets once Kevin Durant made his intentions to move to Brooklyn known. Russell had the best season of his career with the Nets, posting 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game en route to his first All-Star selection.

Marc Gasol returns to Memphis

Date: March 29

After being traded from the Grizzlies to the Raptors at last season's trade deadline, this will be Gasol's first time playing in Memphis as an opponent. Gasol recently said that if it was up to him at the time, he would never have left the Grizzlies. He added that he was glad that they ignored him because the move helped him win his first NBA title.

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