11 Worst Reunions in NBA History

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2012

11 Worst Reunions in NBA History

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    In the NBA, as with most other sports, you see players get churned around and around until there's nothing left in their legs, at which point they become coaches if they are deemed smart enough.

    However, as with many things in sports, bringing back an old veteran or hiring a retired player as a coach can be a crapshoot.

    Often it's a practice in the NBA for a team to bring back a veteran player who had his best days in their city in order to give him one last contract and one last whirl in the city that made them famous. It's a scenario that many have brought up as a possibility with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers—whether it is realistic or not is beside the point.

    Occasionally, a player who has bounced around the league for a bit will have a reunion with his old team and it will be a nice thing to experience. However, there are countless examples of players coming back to their old teams and a disastrous season coming instead.

    Which of these reunions were the most depressing to see and the hardest to watch? Why, that's what you've got me here for, guys: to tell you the worst scenarios in this case.

Dicky V and His Boys from Detroit

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    Is it bad that I still think Dick Vitale is too loud and all I'm doing is looking at his picture?

    Sorry, I digress. Back in the late '70s, the name Dick Vitale was garnering a lot of respect with what he did for the University of Detroit program, taking them to the NCAA tournament, which led to him getting a job coaching the Pistons.

    Wouldn't you know it, three guys that he had coached at Detroit ended up under him on the Pistons: John Long, Terry Tyler and Dennis Boyd.

    However, the reunion wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, bay-bee! Vitale coached the Pistons to a 30-52 record in his first season and was fired 12 games into his second with a 4-8 record, even with John Long putting up 16 points a game for the Pistons.

Bill Cartwright and the Bulls

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    Bill Cartwright was one of the many guys that the Bulls threw out on the court as an option at center during the Michael Jordan years, so it makes sense that he was one of the many guys they used to try to plug their head coaching hole after Phil Jackson left.

    Sandwiched between Bill Berry (yep, the Bill Berry) and Scott Skiles, the only thing that Cartwright could say was that he was the tallest coach in the NBA, so there's that.

    Cartwright coached just one full season and parts of two others from 2002 to 2004, and ended up with a 51-100 record. He has yet to get another head coaching job.

Moses Malone and the 76ers

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    Moses Malone was the man that brought the NBA Championship to Philadelphia in 1983. He was helped by Julius Erving, of course, but none of it would have happened if he wasn't wedging himself into the lane and grabbing five offensive rebounds a game.

    However, Moses left a few years later and continued his journey in the NBA, only to find himself in Philly again in 1993 on a much different team. Moses coming off the bench was a depressing sight, behind the likes of Shawn Bradley (pre-posterized-every-five-plays Shawn Bradley, mind you) and competing for minutes with the legendary Eric Leckner.

    The big man was laboring around in his 19th season in the league and he had almost nothing to add to the team, playing in 55 games and scoring just five points a game.

Wes Unseld and the Bullets

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    If you go through the history of the Washington Bullets (or Wizards, as these kids know 'em nowadays), you'll find no player more important to the team's history than Wes Unseld.

    Unfortunately, you probably won't find a worse coach.

    Unseld and Elvin Hayes led the underdog Bullets to the 1978 championship, capping off a great career throwing guys around in the post. 

    Naturally, after the notably smart player had retired, the team looked to him to fill a coaching hole. It only took the team seven seasons to realize that he wasn't going to pan out.

    He nearly had a winning season in his first full year (40-42), but that was the closest he would get. Unseld finished his coaching career in 1994 with an overall record of 202-345.

M.L. Carr and the Celtics

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    Another big fellow who tried and failed to get back into the NBA with an old team was M.L. Carr, a great bench player for the Celtics through the mid-'80s.

    With two rings on his fingers from the 1981 and 1984 teams, he definitely looked the part to get a shot at wearing the coaching pants, but things didn't seem to work out great for Carr or Celtics fans for that matter.

    A 33-49 record in 1996 wasn't exactly enthralling people throughout Boston, but they were a team between eras and couldn't expect much. However, the worst season in Celtics history, a measly 15-67 record, would have been bad enough for the team to fire the Pope.

    Carr was out of town in two seasons with a hideous 48-116 record.

Elgin Baylor and Basketball

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    There always seems to be the assumption that if a guy played well in the NBA that he's going to be either a good coach or a good judge of talent at the next level.

    This was not the case for Elgin Baylor.

    After retiring in 1972, he was reunited with basketball in 1974 when he was named the new head coach for the New Orleans Jazz. Just over three seasons worth of games and an 86-135 record saw him get thrown out on his keister.

    Fear not though, Elgin Baylor fans, he was hired as the Vice President in Charge of Basketball Operations by the Clippers in 1986, a position he held for 22 years. In those 22 years, the Clippers tore down and rebuilt their franchise 48 different times, but they made the playoffs just four times.

    What's crazy is that Baylor won the Executive of the Year Award back in 2006, as the Clippers saw their first postseason berth since 1997. I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

Chris Webber in Detroit, Golden State

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    Chris Webber did the rarely-seen double reunion at the end of his career, though neither left any NBA fan feeling very satisfied at all.

    First, Webber ended up in Detroit back in 2007, where he was used as a stop-gap in the big part of their lineup, even starting 42 games for the Pistons. This team even made the Eastern Conference Finals, but Webber rarely seemed to fit in with the team and he just looked like his goose was cooked at that point. 

    However, Chris stuck around for another season, this time signing on with the upstart Golden State Warriors, the team he spent his rookie season with. The Warriors had just upset the Mavericks in the previous season's playoffs and were looking for a veteran big man to fill some holes in the middle of the season.

    Webber signed with the team and started eight of his first nine games, but he scored just 35 points in that time and opted to retire rather than continue on.

Rick Pitino and Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer in Boston

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    I can guarantee you this: Every Celtics fan was rooting for Kentucky in the Final Four, if only for the fact that the alternative would be seeing Rick Pitino get a chance at a championship.

    Rick Pitino came in to Boston as the new President and coach with the same cocky attitude he has today and replaced Red Auerbach as the head honcho in the Celtics front office.

    His first act was drafting Ron Mercer, his forward from the year before when he was coaching Kentucky, to go along with former Kentucky star Antoine Walker. In all, Pitino had four UK kids playing for the team in 1998.

    A 102-146 record over three full seasons (one strike-shortened) and bits of another and Pitino quit midway through the 2001 season, only to take the job at Louisville at the beginning of the following season.

Bill Hanzlik and the Nuggets

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    Once upon a time, Bill Hanzlik was a valuable member of the Denver Nuggets bench, as his mustache made the argument that he was the whitest player of the 1980s. He seriously looked like Jeff Foxworthy and Lyle Lovett had a baby.

    Anyway, Denver brought him back as their new head coach in 1998 after the Bernie Bickerstaff-Dick Motta combination won just 21 games in the previous season.

    What happened was the worst first impression a coach has ever made. The trio of Danny Fortson, LaPhonso Ellis and Johnny Newman lost their first 12 games under Coach Hanzlik and just two of their first 40. Yes, this team was 2-38 at one point.

    Hanzlik finished out the season with nine wins over the final 42 (which isn't bad when you consider how terribly the first 40 went) and was kindly asked to never set foot in Denver again.

Scottie Pippen Back in Chicago

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    Pretty much everything about Scottie Pippen after Michael Jordan left the league after the 1998 season is depressing.

    He spent a miserable year with his foil Charles Barkley in 1999, went from being a game away from going to the Finals in 2000 with the Blazers to being there for the beginning part of the Jail Blazers years. Then he went to Chicago for a victory lap of sorts in 2003.

    However, what happened was more like watching an old man labor as he climbs a flight of stairs. Pippen started just six games for the Bulls and played in 23 with just under six points a game.

    The Bulls were just 3-20 in games where Scottie played. He finished his career with them losing 11 games in a row in late January before calling it quits.

Michael Jordan and Basketball

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    Michael Jordan's final basketball comeback was one of the most exciting parts of the early 2000s, but while it was happening, it was obvious that it shouldn't have happened.

    I'm not here to dispute the fact that Jordan was a good player for the Wizards. Hell, the fact that he was averaging 20 points a game at 39 years old only cements his legacy as the greatest ever, kind of like how Babe Ruth was an amazing hitter and pitcher.

    The depressing part about Jordan on the Wizards was, quite frankly, that he was on the Wizards. The team frequently started guys like Jahidi White and Christian Laettner while finishing 37-45 in both seasons in which Jordan played.

    What it really felt like was two things: first, Jordan still had the itch to prove that he could still play, which he did and it was nice to see for a while there; second, the Wizards needed to put some butts in seats.

    Both were accomplished, as Jordan played at an All-Star caliber level for two seasons and the Wizards went from the bottom third in the league in attendance to second in both years that Jordan donned the blue unis.

    Still, nothing will help me get over the fact that Michael Jordan played two awkward seasons for the Wizards.

     

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