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Top 8 Surprising NBA Free Agent Defections since 1995

Basketball
Top 8 Surprising NBA Free Agent Defections since 1995

Recently the NBA off-season has become almost as interesting as the actual season. In the summer of 2010 there was an unprecedented level of talent available in free agency. The likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson all became free agents in the summer of 2010 and where they were all going to sign dominated the summer headlines in the NBA. Since 2010, each NBA off-season has seen a star player become a free agent and speculation on where they would play has been a major topic of discussion.

The summer of 2014 is no different. This off-season LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony can opt to become free agents and whether these two star players will leave their respective teams, the Miami Heat or New York Knicks, has already been a major topic of discussion in the NBA this season. If they do decide to leave their current teams, the Heat and Knicks would lose their best and most marketable players and any hopes of being championship contenders. This list names eight free agents who left their teams in callous fashion. While the order in which these players are ranked is subjective, there can be no question regarding the manner in which they left their teams via free agency. The teams these players left all wanted to resign them and their departures were not very amicable. All records or statistics are valid as of February 27 2014.

8. Dwight Howard, Lakers to Rockets

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Dwight Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2013 to join the Houston Rockets. Howard declined to sign a five year, $118 million contact in lieu of signing a four year, $88 million deal with the Rockets. Howard is the most notable star player to leave the Lakers franchise. The Lakers are noted for attracting star players but in Howard’s case it seemed like he could not wait to leave, despite billboards urging him to stay throughout Los Angeles. During free agency negotiations, Howard reportedly demanded that head coach Mike D’Antoni be replaced and that star guard Kobe Bryant be amnestied. The Lakers refusal to acquiesce to his requests resulted in him leaving for the Rockets. At the moment the Rockets have a record of 39-19, while the Lakers have a 19-39 record.

7. Jeremy Lin, Knicks to Rockets

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Jeremy Lin is currently a reserve guard on the 39-19 Houston Rockets. Early in 2012 however, Lin was the flavor of the month when he played for the New York Knicks. In his first 12 starts before the All-Star break, Lin averaged 22.5 points and 8.7 assists, and New York had a 9–3 record. Lin averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists during his 26 games as an everyday player for the Knicks. Lin missed the playoffs in 2012 due to a knee injury with some rumors stating he was slow to return to the team because he did not want to hurt his value during free agency the upcoming summer. Lin was a restricted free agent and the Knicks stated they wanted to sign him. The Rockets offered a contract of three year, $25 million for Lin, an offer that the Knicks were willing to match before Lin and the Rockets restructured the offer to insure that Lin received $14.9 million in the final year of the contract. The Knicks were unhappy with the new offer and refused to match the Rockets offer to avoid stiff luxury tax penalties and as a result, Lin signed with the Rockets in the summer of 2012.

6. Jason Kidd, Mavericks to Knicks

Wizards v/s Mavericks 02/26/11

Jason Kidd had two tenures with the Dallas Mavericks. In his second tenure with the team the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA championship. After a disappointing 2011/2012 season, the Mavericks hoped to improve their roster through free agency. The Mavericks hoped to resign Kidd on a three year contract and hoped he could help them recruit his friend, Deron Williams from the Brooklyn Nets. The Mavericks and Kidd’s recruitment failed and Williams opted to stay with the Nets and Kidd shockingly signed a three year, $9 million contract with the New York Knicks. Kidd’s decision to leave the Mavericks drew the ire of owner Mark Cuban, who publicly expressed his anger at the point guards change of mind in a radio interview for a local Dallas station. Kidd retired after one season with the Knicks and is currently the coach of the Brooklyn Nets and Deron Williams strangely enough.

5. Ray Allen, Celtics to Heat

The Big Three era in Boston lasted from the beginning of the 2007/2008 season until the end of the 2011/2012 season. In the summer of 2012, one of the members of the aforementioned Big Three, Ray Allen, decided to leave the Boston Celtics in free agency. What prickled Celtic fans and former teammates was that Allen decided to join the Miami Heat, the Celtics fiercest rivals and the team that had eliminated them in the playoffs in two consecutive years, including Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012. To make matters worse for Celtics fans, Allen signed a two year contract worth approximately $6 million to play for the Heat, instead of the two year, $12 million offered by the Celtics. Allen’s decision angered his teammates so much so that former teammate Kevin Garnett publicly stated that he would not talk to Allen in the future.

4. Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers to Jazz

Bulls Carlos Boozer smiles after victory over the Clippers

Carlos Boozer spent the first two years of his career playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After his second season with the Cavaliers, the team allowed him to opt out of his third year which would have paid him only $695,000, making him a restricted free agent, in order for him to sign a six year, $39 million contract to stay in Cleveland. Instead of signing with the Cavaliers, Boozer signed a six year, $70 million offer sheet from the Utah Jazz, that the Cavaliers declined to match and ended up playing in Salt Lake City until the summer of 2010. In the summer of 2010, Boozer signed a free agent contract to play for the Chicago Bulls, his current team. The Cavaliers maintained that they allowed Boozer out of his deal because there was an agreement that he would sign the contract they offered him, a claim that Boozer denies.

3. LeBron James, Cavaliers to Heat

After seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James made the infamous ‘decision’ to sign a free agent contract with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. While this may be the most famous free agent departure in NBA history, it was not the most surprising. What LeBron would do in free agency had been a topic of discussion for two seasons, with most people thinking he would decide to sign with either the New York Knicks or the Chicago Bulls. His decision to sign with the Heat and join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was an unprecedented move for a two time MVP, and the manner in which he left Cleveland, by telling everyone during a TV special, left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The Cavaliers have yet to recover from his departure and there are rumblings that their current star, Kyrie Irving may decide to leave the team at the first opportunity.

2. Shaquille O’Neal, Magic to Lakers

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During Dwight Howard‘s saga over leaving the Orlando Magic in 2011/2012, analysts routinely complained at his treatment of the franchise. Many failed to mention that despite his actions, Howard had played eight seasons with the Magic, twice as many as their first premier center, Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal’s tenure with the Magic resulted in his being the 1993 Rookie of the Year and the Magic making the 1995 NBA Finals. After the 1995/1996 season, O’Neal decided to sign a seven year, $121 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers instead of staying with the Magic. Conflicts with the Magic’s head coach Brian Hill and star guard Penny Hardaway put a strain on O’Neal’s relationship with the Magic. O’Neal left Orlando for the bigger market in Los Angeles and to make matters worse, won his 4th NBA title with another Florida franchise, the Miami Heat in 2006.

1. Elton Brand, Clippers to 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers  v Boston Celtics - Game One

Elton Brand spent seven seasons playing for the Los Angeles Clippers between 2001 and 2008. The 6 ft 9 forward was the first Clipper to be selected to the All-Star team since 1994, when he made his appearance in 2002. After the 2007/2008 season, Brand opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent. Brand publicly stated that he intended to stay with the Clippers and opted out to provide financial flexibility so the team could acquire better players. The Clippers fulfilled their part of the bargain when they acquired Golden State Warriors star point guard Baron Davis and hoped to pair him with Brand. Instead, Brand chose to sign a five year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, leaving the Clippers without their star player and Baron Davis on a team with a poor roster. The Clippers did not return to the playoffs until they paired Blake Griffin with Chris Paul in 2012 and Davis never appeared in the playoffs with the Clippers. He was eventually traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011.

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