Gary Bettman says the NHL is still committed to keeping Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix area despite hurdles

In May, a $2.1 billion Tempe proposal, which included a 16,000-seat arena for the Arizona Coyotes, hotels, a shopping district, restaurants, and real estate, was rejected by the city’s voters. Still, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated that the league is still committed to keeping the Coyotes in the Phoenix area and is continuing to look for alternative spots to build a new arena.

“It’s a good market, and if we can make it work, we’ll make it work,” Bettman said during a Stanley Cup Final media availability in Las Vegas.

“The Arizona Coyotes are going to explore what their other options are in the greater Phoenix area and we’re going to monitor that closely,” Bettman added. “Our hope is that one of the options that is being explored and considered will come to fruition.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also revealed that there have been conversations with Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith regarding having a potential NHL franchise in Salt Lake City.

Last month, Bettman said that he was “terribly disappointed by the results of the public referenda regarding the Coyotes’ arena project in Tempe” in a statement.

The Coyotes were attempting to move to Tempe after the franchise lost its home in Glendale — the Desert Diamond Arena — at the conclusion of the 2021-22 NHL season. The team had called that arena home for 18 years. The franchise then relocated to the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University, as they have shared the arena with the school’s men’s hockey team.

The Coyotes are scheduled to call Mullett Arena home for the next two seasons with an option for a fourth year. The 2022-23 season marked the first for the Coyotes at Mullett Arena.

The franchise originally began playing in Phoenix after relocating from Winnipeg in 1996.

Flyers trade Ivan Provorov to Blue Jackets as part of three-team deal

The Philadelphia Flyers are embarking on their first offseason under new general manager Danny Briere and aren’t wasting any time getting to work. As part of a three-team deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings, the Flyers are trading defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Blue Jackets, the teams announced on Tuesday.

In return, the Flyers are receiving goaltender Cal Peterson, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans, a 2023 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), and a 2023 second-round pick from the Kings. The Blue Jackets are also sending a conditional second-round draft choice in either 2024 or 2025 to the Flyers as part of the deal.

Flyers minor league defenseman Kevin Connauton will also be headed to the Blue Jackets, while the Kings will receive winger Hayden Hodgson from the Flyers as part of the trade. In addition, the Kings will retain 30 percent of Provorov’s contract.

Provorov has tallied 65 goals and 152 assists during his seven professional seasons since the Flyers selected him with the No. 7 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Russian defenseman is coming off a season in which he scored six goals and dished out 21 assists in a full 82-game slate.

Provorov still has two seasons remaining on his six-year, $40.5 million contract that he signed back in 2019. He has an annual cap hit of $6.75 million.

The veteran defenseman made headlines in January when he refused to wear Philadelphia’s Pride uniforms during warmups and stayed in the locker room. Provorov cited his religious beliefs as his reasoning for not wearing the Pride jerseys.

“I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said following the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Petersen looked like he was going to see significant action in the Kings’ crease this past season alongside Jonathan Quick, but ended up being sent down to the AHL in November after struggling to start off the year. The 28-year old has a 44-42-10 record, a 2.92 goals-against-average, and a .905 save percentage in 101 career games, and has spent all five of his NHL seasons in Los Angeles.

Walker, 28, is a veteran defenseman that has recorded 67 career points (16 goals, 51 assists) in five seasons with the Kings. Meanwhile, Grans is a defenseman that was selected with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Kings and spent the 2022-23 season with the AHL’s Ontario Reign.

‘I’d love to convince him to stay’

Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris has weighed in on the James Harden situation. While speaking during a press conference ahead of a Washington Commanders — another team he recently purchased — preseason NFL game, Harris gave his insight on Harden’s trade request, and how he wishes to convince the All-Star guard to stay in Philadelphia.

“Listen, we’re hard at work,” Harris said. “I respect James. I want to, obviously, accommodate what he wants. At the same time, I have to think about a championship-contending team, what we can get back. I’d love to convince him to stay. I understand that that’s not what he wants to do right now.”

Harris’ remarks came a day before Harden was fined $100,000 by the NBA for comments “indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team.”

Harris’ comments echo what Sixers president Daryl Morey has said recently in wanting to get the best return if the team trades Harden. However, the timeline of that trade is certainly taking longer than Harden would like, which is what reportedly led him to call Morey “a liar.” Harden told the league office — which opened an investigation into Harden’s comments — that those comments stemmed from Morey telling him that he would be traded “quickly” after he requested the trade. That obviously hasn’t happened, which resulted in Harden saying during an event in China that he would never play for a team ran by Morey.

The Sixers and Harden are now in a standoff, with Philadelphia calling off trade talks with the Clippers with the intention of bringing the disgruntled star into training camp. But given Harden’s comments, which more recently includes saying that his relationship with the team is beyond repair, that isn’t the ideal situation for either side. Despite no trade being on the horizon at the moment, Harris said that he will work to find the best solution for everyone involved.

“I’m going to keep working to resolve it in a way that everyone can live with and is positive for everyone, whatever that resolution is,” Harris said. “… I respect him as a basketball player, and as a person. It’s back to, these are, you’re dealing with people, right? And you’ve got to be there. We’ll see where it comes out.”

Time will tell if Harris is able to change Harden’s mind, but right now it doesn’t seem like he wants to go down that route. But with training camp opening Oct. 3, the Sixers still have a good chunk of time to resolve this situation before things get really uncomfortable.

James Harden fined $100K by NBA after public comments about 76ers trade request, NBPA to challenge ruling

James Harden has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for his “public comments on August 14 and 17 indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team,” the NBA announced on Tuesday.

“The league’s investigation, which included an interview of Harden, confirmed that these comments referenced Harden’s belief that the 76ers would not accommodate his request to be traded,” the league’s statement concluded.

Later on Tuesday, the National Basketball Players Association issued a statement disagreeing with the ruling and promising to challenge it.

“We respectfully disagree with the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, which we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demands,” the players’ union’s statement said. “We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”

For reference, here is what Harden said at an event in China on Aug. 14.

“Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said to a room full of people in a video obtained by Shams Charania. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

It would appear that the part of that comment that really got Harden in trouble, even more so than calling Morey a liar, was when he followed up by saying “will never be a part of an organization that [Morey is] a part of.”

Translation, unless Morey is fired, Harden won’t play for the Philadelphia 76ers — which is interesting considering the fact that in June he willingly opted in to his $35.6 million player option for the 2023-24 season with … the Philadelphia 76ers.

Here is the language from the CBA.

The rule is new and $100K is the maximum allowed.

The maximum player fine that may be imposed for (1) conduct or statements prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball, the NBA, or a team, or (2) violations of the tampering…

— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 22, 2023
You might recall that Kevin Durant was reported to have told the Brooklyn Nets that the only way he would play for them, even though he was under contract, was if they got rid of their head coach at the time, Steve Nash, and GM Sean Marks. But Durant never said this publicly.

When Ben Simmons basically refused to play for the Sixers, he cited mental health. He didn’t just flat out say he wouldn’t play in Philadelphia.

Stuff likes this goes on behind the scenes a lot. Business is dirty, and the NBA is a business. Damian Lillard has made it pretty clear he wants a trade out of Portland, where he’s under contract for the next four years, and that specifically he wants to go to Miami, but he hasn’t stepped out and said this publicly.

That’s where Harden went wrong. You can’t stand up on a global platform, effectively grab a megaphone, and start refusing to play for the team with which you are under contract. The NBA has to get at least somewhat of a handle on this. Player empowerment is one thing; complete manipulation and outright refusal to honor contracts is a whole other issue that certainly falls within the language of “statements detrimental to basketball, the NBA or a team.”

Subsequently, the NBA launched an investigation into Harden’s comments and whether his calling Morey a liar potentially referenced a handshake agreement between the two when Harden took a lower salary last summer. Did Morey tell Harden he would make it up to him this summer with a long-term deal? If so, this would qualify as something of a wink-wink salary cap circumvention.

Instead, what emerged from the investigation was Harden confirming that his liar comment was in reference to Morey “telling Harden he will trade him quickly following the $35.6 million opt-in for the 2023-24 season,” per The Athletic.

So Harden believed he was only opting in to be traded, and the Sixers’ stance now is that they dont intend to trade him. For Harden, such are the breaks when nobody out there — notably the Clippers — wants you enough to present Morey with a reasonable trade offer.

Never mind the hypocrisy of a guy who has bailed, or is in the process of trying to bail, on three different teams with whom he was under contract calling somebody else a liar. When Harden signed those deals, that’s a pretty clear agreement to give your all to that team. Did he keep his word?

He would tell you that circumstances changed from the time he signed those deals. Well, circumstances have changed for the Sixers, too.

Harden’s value is in the tank, pretty simply. He can walk after this season. He flamed out (again) when the Sixers needed him most in Games 6 and 7 of the conference semifinals against Boston last year. He very clearly is always a threat to up and force his way out of a contract and turn your team into a mess, as he has now done three times — first in Houston, then Brooklyn, and now Philadelphia.

Oh, and he’s about to turn 34 years old and isn’t anywhere near the player he once was. He doesn’t have the leverage he thinks he does, or certainly that he used to have. His best bet is to swallow his pride, come back to the Sixers and give them 100% for one more season. If he plays well, and isn’t a problem, he can perhaps restore some of his value and have his agent start sweeping the landscape for creative deals next summer to land him with one more long-term deal.

Or he can being stubborn and try to become such a headache that Morey capitulates. I wouldn’t count on that happening. Morey showed with the Simmons saga that he can stay locked into a staring contest with the best of them. In other words, stay tuned.