The Backdoor Cut: Revenge Edition

Podcast coming soon…

Conflict is drama.  Drama is born out of pettiness and grudges.  And the NBA is perhaps second only to the Kardashians in terms of passive-aggressive pettiness and grudge holding.  The backstories and interplay between the players and their current/former teams often breed great drama.  Take, for example, an unceremonious breakup, like the off season trade between the Celtics and Cavs in which the main trade pieces were Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving. Some viewed this as Boston doing Thomas dirty.  However you view it, we can still appreciate the inevitable tenseness that comes along with the first reunion game where former family becomes foe.  Bro, Slim, and Chief now break down their individual choices for top revenge performances of this season.

A few rules of the road that we factored into the analysis below:

  • All rookies whose rights might have been traded during draft night do not count as they never had an active “former team”; and
  • The relationship (or lack thereof) between former team and player weighs into the score. Specifically, if they the player was very disgruntled with his former team because of an impromptu trade and went off against said former team, that revenge performance would garner a high score.  

BRO:

Have you ever played for a team that sucked and had no intentions of not sucking? That would be the situation that Eric Bledsoe found himself in this year. The Suns have not made a playoff appearance since the 2009-2010 season. This was before Bledsoe was traded from the Clippers as part of a three team deal back in 2013. After his first season in Phoenix, Bledsoe signed a significant 5 year, $70mm deal with Phoenix, most likely hoping they would be able to fill the roster with some decent talent to help end the miserable time in purgatory that Phoenix has found itself in.

This season, Bledsoe decided to take matters into his own hands by doing the mature thing and tweeting about how mad he was. Nothing like a grown man pouting to his followers. He was not very cryptic with this tweet that he sent out during the first month of the season.

It only took a few short weeks before the Sun’s management acquiesce to his request and sent him packing to the Milwaukee Bucks for Greg Monroe and a couple of 2018 protected draft picks. Really not a terrible trade for either team. The Bucks got another scorer to play aside their superstar Giannis in Bledsoe, who has averaged over 17 ppg his last four seasons in Phoenix. Meanwhile the the Suns can begin to staff their team for the future around new up and coming bucket getter Devin Booker. Monroe’s contract is expiring so they don’t have to worry about keeping him any longer than this year if they choose to focus on bringing in a star free agent or working the draft system (in 2018 they have their own 1st round pick plus the Miami top-8 protected pick and Milwaukee protected).  From an outsider’s standpoint I like the trade on both ends. It is not often that both teams can walk away from a transaction and someone doesn’t appear at least slightly shafted.

Fast forward to game day. The first matchup between Bledsoe and his former team took place just a few short weeks after his trade to the Bucks. They met at his old stomping grounds in Phoenix on November 22, a few short weeks after the trade.  With Giannis not dressing for the game due to knee soreness, this gave Bledsoe the perfect stage to make this his revenge game. He showed out with a stat line of 30p/6r/7a/2s and led his new teammates to victory over the suns with a 113 to 107 win in overtime.

Bonus: Greg Monroe, the other major trade piece, albeit a less dramatic piece, also had a solid outing while posting a stat line of 22p/15r/1b.

SLIM:

Troy Daniels was acquired by the Memphis Grizzlies prior to the 2016-2017 season to help spread the floor and help the Grizz transition from the traditional ground and pound style of play to the more uptempo offense David Fizdale wanted to run. Instead of coming out hot like he did in the 2014 NBA Playoffs with the Rockets , Daniels saw his first 11 3-point attempts rattle out and got inside his own head while his struggles continued, according to this article by the Commercial Appeal’s Ron Tillery. Daniels then bounced back to have the best season of his career, averaging 8.2 points in just over 17 minutes per game, while shooting 39% from beyond the arc. His best game of the season was in early December against the Lakers, when he dropped a then career-high 31 in route to a Grizzlies win, but Daniels was never given a consistent spot in the rotation, despite having the one skill the Grizzlies have lacked for damn near a decade.

The Grizzlies then drafted Dillon Brooks and signed Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore, Rade Zagorac, Mario Chalmers and re-signed Wayne Selden which left it highly unlikely that Daniels would be able to break into the rotation this season. Not all of those guys are necessarily shooting guards save for Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden, both of whom have sat out multiple games due to injury. McLemore has played in 22 games, averaging 6 points in 17 minutes on 33% shooting from deep. Selden is just now getting healthy, so I’ll save my judgement of him.

So naturally, in September just before training camp was set to begin, the Grizzlies basically gave Daniels to the Phoenix Suns, completing a trade that sent Daniels and a 2018 second round pick to Phoenix for a protected 2018 2nd rounder in return. Coming off the best season of his career, Daniels was sent to a team that has been in the NBA dumpster for several years and still looks to be a few years away from even making a run at the Playoffs. Charles Barkley describes the state of the Suns best in this rant from Inside the NBA.

Daniels began the season in a limited role for the lowly Suns, but was inserted into the rotation when budding superstar Devin Booker was sidelined with an injury. Troy responded by going for a career-high 32 points in a home loss to the Raptors, and the Suns won 2 of their next 3 on the road, to come back home and face Daniels’ former Grizzlies team.

Phoenix came back from an early deficit, thanks in large part to Daniels providing a spark off the bench, but the real fireworks came late in the game. Leading by 1 with 20 seconds left in the game, the Grizzlies bottled up TJ Warren who had a game-high 27 points, forcing him to pass the ball to Dragan Bender at the top of the key. Bender’s 3-point attempt was off the mark, but after the rebound was tipped, Greg Monroe saved the ball from going out of bounds underneath the Suns basketball, leaped and twisted in the air, while finding an open Daniels on the left wing, right in front of the Grizzlies bench. “It (the shot) had to go up,” Daniels said, and up it went.

“We live for moments like this and we work each and every day for moments like this. I just happened to hit the shot,” Daniels went on to say before saying, ““It feels great. I’d rather it be on them than anybody else.”

This is revenge in its sweetest form. Your former team thinks they have the stop to ice the game, instead your fuckin center saves the ball AND makes a great pass, and you get to shoot the shot right in front of your former teammates, while the guy (McLemore) they brought in to replace you continues to stink up the joint. This Bud’s for you, Troy Daniels — cheers.

CHIEF:

Can you imagine it? Walking back into your old gym? A gym you bled in?  A gym in which you poured your sweat and tears?  A gym in which you slid into the DMs of beautiful women sitting courtside?  All these emotions come crashing back, and you’re now facing your old friends on the wooden battlefield.  Say your “suh’s” to your favorite arena staff members early, because it’s time to get down to business and show your previous team how dumb they were for letting you walk.  This is the stuff of legend.  This is the stuff of petty.  This, BarnBurner readers, is the stuff of the NBA.  

Now that the stage is appropriately set, I pick two (not-so) Titans on opposite ends of the state. East and West Coast. Magic’s Lakers v. Jay-Z’s Nets.  Or, more accurately, Brook Lopez v. DeAngelo Russell.  I made this pick mostly because I wish there were more contests between Lopez and Russell in general.  I think it would be great to watch them compete in other things, like chess, hotdog eating, etc.  Are there two more polar opposite players in the NBA?  I digress.

Backstory:  

Russell — The Lakers selected Ohio State freshman phenom Russell with the 2015 2nd overall pick, thinking he would would be the team’s PG of the future.  His vision, passing, and high-upside intangibles had them convinced, such that he was selected over the likes of Porzingis, D-Book, Mudiay, and Oubre.  Russell performed a little below expectations, but then this happened in 2017:

Russell was traded to the Nets, where dreams die, for Brook Lopez, the 27th overall pick, and a sack of goose feathers, to make room for new Magic Goldenboy, Lonzo Ball.  See ya, sucka!

Lopez — Lopez, always one of the more skilled big men in the league, now lives in Los Angeles, and this makes me happy, because I’m sure he enjoys the food and media culture more so than the average NBA player.  He is, after all, an avid comic book reader.  He’s the quintessential NBA nerd (and Stanford guy).  I’m not sure Lopez is capable of holding a grudge.  Frankly, I’m sure he was glad to get the hell out of Brooklyn while the gettin’ was good and enjoy his NBA twilight years somewhere sun soaked and fun.  

Box Score:

On November 3, 2017, Russell’s first return to Staples Center, he rides in on his anger horse read to serve up a nice heaping helping of revenge ball to his former team.

On November 3, 2017, Lopez likely enjoyed a nice salad at one of his favorite cafes before watching the season finale of Breaking Bad (a show he enjoys very much) for the 4th time before heading in to work to play a friendly game of basketball.

Annnnnnd……

Russell: 17-7-7 in 35 minutes at 33% from the floor and 1-8 from three.

Lopez:  34-10-2 in 30 minutes at 57% from the floor and 6-9 from three.

Ooooof.   

Petty Meter:  Maybe Russell had the best petty intentions.  Indeed, he launched 8 threes despite only sinking one — probably his effort to get going and give the middle finger to La La Land.  Only he sucked and Lopez outperformed him in nearly every measurable statistic.  That hurts.  Not to mention Russell’s most infamous moment came not in an NBA game, but rather ratting out his teammate Swaggy P when he was trying to get a little side-poon.  No one likes a snitch, and neither do the Lakers apparently.  

As for ole B-Lopez, after demolishing Russell, Lopez shrugged, went home, and enjoyed a nice pinot before bedtime.  I think perhaps, Lopez may be the low-key pettiest of all.  

[image obtained from ESPN/Sportscenter]

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