The Philadelphia Flyers have unveiled new home and road uniforms for the 2023-24 season, both of which feature a burnt orange color. It marks the first time since 2010 that the organization has altered their uniforms in any capacity.
The new jerseys will also feature the franchise’s first jersey path partner.
“This New Era of Orange is all about honoring our franchise’s storied past while writing an exciting, new chapter of Flyers history,” Flyers CEO and Governor Daniel J. Hilferty said in a statement. “These new uniforms represent that sentiment perfectly with details to honor previous eras paired with a fresh, modern design. And there’s no better company than Independence Blue Cross to be our first jersey patch partner! It is an organization that has meant so much to me personally and the entire Philadelphia region.”
Burnt Orange is back. https://t.co/GVr6Ajt1f2 pic.twitter.com/HHFHpFbmam
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) June 20, 2023 The team worked with Flyers season ticket holders, former players and broadcasters throughout the process of selecting these new uniforms.
The Flyers combined some past elements into these new uniforms to “form a modern adaptation” of the team’s storied history.
The home jersey will feature a burnt orange color, a throwback to the Flyers teams of the 1980s and 1990s. A similar jersey was worn in the late 1990s when players like Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg formed the Flyers’ “Legion of Doom” line. The burnt orange is featured on the arm and shoulder, as well as on the large player numbers for the team’s away jerseys. The team will also sport burnt orange socks. The bold striping along the shoulder and down the arms have been a key element in Flyers uniforms of the past. The numbers on the sleeve are a single-color design, which was a characteristic of the original 1967-70 uniforms. It’s the first time in several decades that Philadelphia will have single-color numbers. The Flyers also have a black horizontal stripe at the bottom of the their jerseys with black pants, which was first introduced in 1982. These new jerseys have a name-plate design that differs in color from the rest of the jersey. The Flyers are the league’s only team that have a different color name-plate than their jersey. The new uniforms are the latest in several changes that the franchise has made since the 2022-23 season came to a close.
The team hired former player Danny Briere as the team’s general manager after he served in that post in an interim capacity after former general manager Chuck Fletcher was fired in March. The Flyers also hired Keith Jones as the team’s new president as well adding former Flyers Patrick Sharp and LeClair to positions in the front office.
Shortly after becoming the permanent general manager, Briere made his first big splash as he traded defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a haul that included a 2023 first-round pick.
Starting in the 2023-24 season, NHL teams will no longer wear specialty jerseys during warmups for themed nights. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the decision following the league’s Board of Governors meeting.
This decision from the NHL comes after a season that was filled with how various Pride nights were handled across the league. Some individual players refused to wear the warmup jerseys, and several teams chose not to wear an LGBTQ-themed warmup jersey at all.
Immediately following the meeting, Bettman spoke with Sportsnet about the decision. Bettman said the debate about the jerseys became more of a “distraction.” He also suggested that nixing the jerseys would put more focus onto the nights themselves.
“Actually, I’ve suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warmups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all our clubs, in some form or another, host nights in honor of various groups or causes,” Bettman said. “We’d rather those continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction.”
Bettman acknowledged the jerseys can make fans the LGBTQ community feel more included and that the NHL made this decision during Pride month but re-emphasized his opinion that the jerseys had become a distraction.
“Those are legitimate concerns, but in the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on these important various causes have been undermined by the distraction in terms of which teams and which players (are wearing them),” Bettman said. “This way, we can keep it focused on the game. On these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.”
Bettman said that Pride nights — and all specialty nights — are here to stay in the NHL. The only change will be that players no longer wear themed jerseys in warmups.
“Absolutely, 32 of our clubs did Pride nights. Some do Heritage nights,” Bettman said. “Everyone does Hockey Fights Cancer. Some do military nights. All of those nights will continue. The only issue will be — or the only difference will be — we aren’t going to change jerseys for warmups because really that has become more of a distraction from the essence of what the purposes of these nights are.”
The discussion around NHL Pride nights began when then-Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov chose not to wear the team’s warmup jersey for religious reasons. Throughout the rest of the season, Eric Staal, Marc Staal, and James Reimer sat out Pride Night warmups for the same reason.
Several NHL teams chose not to wear special warmup jerseys at all because of new Russian anti-gay laws that may have put players from that country in jeopardy if they promoted pro-LGBTQ causes. Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, and San Jose Sharks chose to go ahead with Pride Night warmup jerseys despite having Russian players in the lineup.
The Nashville Predators have traded center Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced on Saturday. In return, the Predators will receive forward Alex Galchenyuk, who is set to become a free agent on July 1.
As part of the deal, the Predators will also retain 50% of Johansen’s $8 million salary cap hit over the next two seasons. Nashville retained a portion of Mattias Ekholm’s salary after trading him to the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 2023 trade deadline, so the team can retain salary on just one more player after the Johansen deal.
This move provides the Avalanche with the second-line center that they were missing for much of the 2022-23 season. When Nazem Kadri signed with the Calgary Flames last summer, that left a void in Colorado’s lineup, and Johansen should slot into that role at just $4 million per year, which is a reasonable gamble to make.
Johansen is just a couple years removed from his 2021-22 campaign in which he recorded 26 goals and 37 assists for 63 points in 79 games. Last season, Johansen’s production dipped to 28 points in 55 games, and he suffered a season-ending leg injury on Feb. 21. He should be back in time for the start of the 2023-24 season.
For the Predators, this trade frees up $4 million in salary cap space and gets a big contract off the books, at least partially. Nashville has entered a rebuilding mode, and the team has traded some big names in the last few months, like Ekholm and Mikael Granlund. Johansen played eight seasons with the Preds and played the role of No. 1 center in their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
Galchenyuk, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, failed to record a point in 11 games with the Avs last season.
The Los Angeles Kings announced they have traded defenseman Sean Durzi to the Arizona Coyotes. In return, the Kings will receive a 2024 second-round draft pick, which was originally owned by the Montreal Canadiens.
Durzi just completed his second NHL season, and at the age of 24, looks like he could develop into a solid top-four option for Arizona. In 2022-23, Durzi totaled nine goals and 29 assists in 71 games. With Durzi on the ice at five-on-five, the Kings controlled 51.3% of the expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick.
In the team’s official announcement, Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said Durzi can contribute at both ends of the ice.
“Sean is a reliable two-way defenseman who has good vision and contributes offensively,” Armstrong said in his statement. “He will be a very good addition to our blue line and we look forward to having him on our roster this season.”
Durzi is entering the final season of his two-year contract at $1.7 million per year, and he is set to be a restricted free agent next summer.
The Kings, who just recently signed Vladislav Gavrikov to a two-year contract extension, already have a strong stable of defenseman. Trading Durzi frees up some cap space for Los Angeles to improve its team in other areas, whether that is in goal or up front.
The Boston Bruins had a regular season for the ages and goaltender Linus Ullmark was a big reason for that success. On Monday, Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, beating out other finalists Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets and Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders.
Ullmark is the fifth goaltender in Bruins history to win the Vezina Trophy and the first since 2014, when Tuukka Rask won the award. Pete Peeters became the first Boston goaltender to win the award in 1983, while Tim Thomas earned the honor in both 2009 and 2011.
Ullmark had a phenomenal regular season:
He tied the Bruins’ single-season wins record (40) while also posting a league-leading 1.89 goals-against-average and .938 save percentage in 49 games (48 starts). The Bruins netminder also had a pair of shutouts throughout the year, as he helped lead the Bruins to an NHL record 135 points alongside fellow goaltender Jeremy Swayman. Ullmark, 29, yielded just two or fewer goals in 36 of his 49 games throughout the 2022-23 season. In his 49th game of the season, Ullmark became the fastest goaltender in NHL history to reach the 40-win mark. It also tied him for the franchise wins record in a single season with Pete Peeters, who accomplished the feat in 63 games during the 1982-83 season. According to MoneyPuck, Ullmark produced a league-best .966 save percentage when facing unblocked shots during the regular season. Ullmark also led the NHL with a 0.883 goals saved above expected per 60 minutes and a 0.88 goals-against-average better than expected.
On top of that, Ullmark even made some wild history as he became just the 13th goaltender in NHL history to score a regular-season goal. He scored in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on February 25.
This was just Ullmark’s second season with the Bruins after signing a four-year, $20 million deal in the 2021 offseason. He had spent the first six seasons of his NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres after the team selected him in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP during the NHL Awards ceremony on Monday. McDavid edged out the likes of Boston Bruins star David Pastrnak and Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk to win the award.
It marks the third time (2016-17 & 2020-21) that McDavid has won the Hart Trophy in his eight-year NHL career. It’s also the third time in four seasons in which an Oilers player has earned MVP honors. Leon Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy during the 2019-20 campaign while McDavid captured the league MVP in the 2020-21 season.
McDavid racked up a career-high 153 points (64 goals & 89 assists) during the 2022-23 season. The Oilers star produced the highest point total since former Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux had 161 points in 1995-96.
The Oilers forward led the league in points, goals and assists while ranking second in power-play goals (21) only behind Draisaitl. McDavid had never produced more than 123 points in a single season, which he racked up during the 2021-22 campaign.
After just eight NHL seasons, McDavid already has the fifth-most points (850) in franchise history behind only Wayne Gretzky (1,669), Jari Kurri (1,043), Mark Messier (1,034), and Glenn Anderson (906). McDavid could likely pass Messier for the third spot on the Oilers’ all-time points list next season.
McDavid wasn’t the only player to take home some hardware on Monday evening. Here are the rest of the NHL Award winners:
Vezina Trophy: Linus Ullmark (Boston Bruins) The Boston Bruins had the best regular season in NHL history as they amassed 135 points. Goaltender Linus Ullmark was a big reason why and received some validation when he won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.
Ullmark topped Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets and Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders to win the prestigious award.
Ullmark became the fifth goaltender in Bruins history to win the Vezina Trophy and the first since 2014 when Tuukka Rask earned the honor. Pete Peeters became the first Bruins goaltender to win the award in 1983 while Tim Thomas earned the honor in both 2009 and 2011.
Ullmark had a phenomenal regular season as he tied the Bruins’ single-season wins record (40) while also posting a league-leading 1.89 goals-against-average and .938 save percentage in 49 games (48 starts). The 29-year-old also had a pair of shutouts throughout the year as he helped lead the Bruins to an NHL record 135 points alongside fellow goaltender Jeremy Swayman.
Norris Trophy: Erik Karlsson (San Jose Sharks) Erik Karlsson became just the second player in San Jose Sharks history to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. Karlsson won the award over Adam Fox of the New York Rangers and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.
Karlsson joins Brent Burns (2016-17) as the only two players in Sharks history to win the Norris Trophy.
Karlsson became the first defenseman to top the 100-point mark in a season since former Rangers blue-liner Brian Leetch reached that plateau with 102 points during the 1991-92 campaign. The Sharks defenseman finished the 2022-23 season with 101 points (25 goals & 76 assists) in 82 games.
In addition, Karlsson’s 76 assists were tied for third in the league behind only Connor McDavid (89) and Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov (83). He accomplished that while playing for a Sharks team that earned the fourth-fewest points (60) in the NHL.
Calder Trophy: Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken) Matty Beniers has become the first player in Seattle Kraken history to earn some major hardware. Beniers won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie on Monday as he earned the honor over Buffalo Sabres defenseman and former University of Michigan teammate Owen Power and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner.
Beniers finished the regular season with 57 points (24 goals & 33 assists), which was fourth on the team. The 2021 No. 2 pick led all NHL rookies in the point department as he edged out Arizona Coyotes forward Mason Matias Maccelli (49) and Anaheim Ducks forward Mason MacTavish (43) for the league lead.
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) For the second consecutive season, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has won the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward. Bergeron beat out New Jersey Devils forward Nico Hischier and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner for the honor.
It marks the sixth career Selke Trophy for Bergeron, who has spent all 19 seasons of his career as a member of the Bruins. Bergeron also won the award three times over four seasons, spanning from 2012 to 2015. The 37-year-old blocked 54 shots while forcing 38 turnovers in 78 games this season.
Jack Adams Award: Jim Montgomery (Boston Bruins) Sensing a pattern here? The Bruins had a historic season, which means that they won the majority of the regular-season awards at the league’s ceremony.
Considering that the team racked up an NHL record 135 points, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery took home the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top head coach. Montgomery topped the likes of Dave Hakstol of the Seattle Kraken and Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils. This marked Montgomery’s third season as an NHL head coach and his first with the Bruins.
Ted Lindsay Award: Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) Connor McDavid won his second award of the night as he took home the Ted Lindsay Award. McDavid beat out San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak to earn the honor.
The Ted Lindsay Award is handed out to the NHL’s most outstanding player as voted on by his peers. This marks the fourth time that the Oilers star has won the Ted Lindsay Award during his professional career. McDavid shattered his previous career-high in goals (64) after never having more than 44 in a single season.
Lady Byng Trophy: Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings) Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar won the Lady Byng Trophy for displaying the best sportsmanship in the league. Kopitar edged out New Jersey Devils star Jack Hughes and Tampa Bay Lightning star Brayden Point to win the award as he earned 77 first-place votes.
The award is given to the player that was “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
It’s the second time that Kopitar has taken home the Lady Byng Trophy as he won the award following the 2015-16 season. Kopitar is coming off of a season in which he registered a team-high 74 points (28 goals & 46 assists) in his 17th NHL season. He led his team in scoring for the 15th time in his career, which is the third-most in NHL history behind only Wayne Gretzky (19 times) and Gordie Howe (17 times).
Bill Masterton Trophy: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang won the Bill Masterton Trophy as he edged Arizona Coyotes star Clayton Keller and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock. The award is given to the player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
During the 2022-23 season, Letang suffered the second stroke of his NHL career in November 2022, but returned to the ice just 12 days later. The veteran defenseman also lost his father, Claude Fouquet, and Letang was forced to be away from the team in order to mourn the horrific loss. Letang became the first Penguins player to win the Bill Masterton Trophy since Mario Lemieux won the award in 1993 following being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma that season.
The most recent update to the 2023-24 CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1 came more than a month ago, when Kentucky secured a commitment from West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell and moved up to No. 17 in those rankings. Since then, things have been slow in the sport of college basketball. But the Wildcats received another commitment from another frontcourt piece on Tuesday that necessitates another update to the Top 25 And 1.
His name is Zvonimir Ivisic. He’s a 7-foot-2 center from Croatia. His addition has John Calipari’s program up to No. 16 in Version 20.0 of the Top 25 And 1.
“I got the [scholarship] offer … from Coach Calipari to attend the University of Kentucky,” Ivisic posted on social media. “I’m excited to [announce] that I [have] accepted the scholarship, and [that] I will play [at UK] next season. Go Big Blue!”
Ivisic just had a string of impressive performances at the FIBA U20 European Championship last month, averaging 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks while shooting 34% from 3-point range. Exactly how the soon-to-be-20-year-old will translate to the high-major level remains unclear. But the worst case scenario has Ivisic adding depth to a roster that needs it, especially considering Kentucky bigs Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso are both currently injured.
Kentucky is one of five SEC schools in Version 20.0 of the Top 25 And 1. The others are No. 11 Arkansas, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 25 Mississippi State. The only other league with at least five schools in the Top 25 And 1 is the Big East with No. 6 Marquette, No. 8 UConn, No. 9 Creighton, No. 24 Villanova and No. 26. St. John’s.
Rafael dos Anjos and Vicente Luque say their matchup Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night presents a prime opportunity to get their careers back on track. Their five-round battle tops the main UFC fight card starting at 7 p.m. ET from the Apex facility in Las Vegas, and the winner will have a step forward towards title-contention in the welterweight division. Dos Anjos is a former lightweight champion and one-time welterweight title challenger who will try to make one final late career run at another belt. Luque is a seasoned veteran who hopes to end a two-fight skid and potentially move into the top-five welterweight rankings.
Dos Anjos is a -125 favorite (risk $125 to win $100), while Luque is priced at +105 in the latest UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Dos Anjos odds. In the co-main event, featherweight sluggers take the spotlight as prospect Hakeem Dawodu (-230) meets veteran Cub Swanson (+190). Before settling any UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Dos Anjos picks, make sure you see the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Daniel Vithlani.
Vithlani is a highly analytical UFC bettor who profited more than $6,200 for $100 bettors in 2022. This includes a documented 24-14 record on his well-respected, two-leg parlays. Every pick was documented on his public Instagram account.
From breaking down film and following fighters and their camps closely, to tracking sharp action and betting market signals, Vithlani covers the breadth of the MMA betting landscape top to bottom. He also trains amateur boxers and speaks regularly with MMA fighters to understand the sport’s nuances.
In his SportsLine debut for UFC 283 in January, Vithlani swept the main card and his 5-0 ledger included advising SportsLine members to support Jamahal Hill (-125) against Glover Teixeira (+105) for the vacant light heavyweight title in the main event. Anyone who has followed him has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Dos Anjos in sight, Vithlani has scoured the UFC fight card from top to bottom and released his top MMA picks. Vithlani’s UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Dos Anjos preview Dos Anjos (32-14) remains widely regarded as one of the most complete fighters in the UFC. His arsenal starts with a strong stand-up base that is formidable enough to compete with world-class strikers. But he’s even more lethal on the ground, using his elite wrestling and grappling to secure 11 submissions among his 24 career victories.
The 38-year-old Brazilian lost his first two UFC outings but responded with a run that saw him win 13 of 16 fights and capture the lightweight title with a decision win over Anothny Pettis in March 2015. He made one successful defense against Donald Cerrone before dropping the belt to Eddie Alvarez.
Dos Anjos moved up to welterweight and used a three-fight winning streak to land an interim title shot but dropped a close decision to Colby Covington in June 2018. He has split his last eight fights and notched a win over veteran Bryan Barberena at welterweight last December. A victory Saturday would likely give dos Anjos a top-10 welterweight ranking and present a path to title contention.
But it won’t be easy against a venerable ranked competitor in Luque. He used a stretch of nine wins in 10 fights to achieve a top-five ranking, but saw his momentum stalled behind consecutive losses to veteran contenders Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal.
Luque (21-9-1) is noted for numerous highlight-reel finishes, and the explosive striker has 11 knockouts and eight submissions on his record while earning eight UFC performance bonuses. The 31-year-old has a 93% finish rate, which ranks second in UFC history. Gerald Meerschaert leads that category with finishes in all 10 of his UFC victories. You can only see who to pick at UFC Fight Night here.
Top UFC Fight Night predictions We’ll share one of Vithlani’s UFC Fight Night predictions here: He is siding with Iasmin Lucindo (-190) to get past Polyana Viana (+160).
Lucindo (14-5) is a versatile and powerful fighter who has 10 stoppages among her 14 professional MMA victories. The 21-year-old Brazilian entered the UFC on a seven-fight winning streak before splitting her first two outings with the promotion. She earned her first UFC win with a decision over Brogan Walker in April.
Viana (13-5) is a similarly balanced fighter who has eight submissions and five knockouts to account for her 13 victories. She has never won by decision but has come up short on the scorecards in four of her five losses. The five-year UFC veteran overcame a three-fight skid by winning three of her past four. She notched a first-round knockout of Jinh Yu Frey in 47 seconds last November.
“Lucindo also has excellent takedowns and can look to control Viana on the mat. I see Lucindo out-boxing and out-wrestling Viana for a decision win,” Vithlani told SportsLine. See who else to back here.
How to make UFC Fight Night picks Vithlani also has strong picks for Luque vs. Dos Anjos and other bouts on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s backing a fighter who “is in great physical shape” to emerge with a dominant victory. See Vithlani’s picks and analysis at SportsLine.
James Harden’s tour across China continues, and after calling Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey a liar earlier this week, the former league MVP is now flirting with the idea of playing in China at some point. It’s unclear if he meant actually signing with a team in China to play a season, or if he would be interested in the NBA hosting a game in the country like the league has done in the past. But it’s clear that he has a fondness for the fans in the country.
“Every time I come here, the love is just like … it’s crazy, you know what I mean?” Harden said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “So I feel like they deserve to actually see me come play here. … Love is always crazy here.”
Those comments come just a few days after the former league MVP publicly called Morey a liar and said he would never play for a team ran by Morey, amidst a contract and trade dispute. Harden requested a trade back in June, with the hope of landing on the Clippers. However, after on-and-off trade talks over the past couple months, it was reported last week that Philadelphia was ending those discussions with L.A. and planned to bring Harden into training camp.
Harden is reportedly prepared to sit out training camp if he isn’t traded, however, sitting out for an extended period of time could impede with him signing with a new team next summer when he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent. There’s a clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement that says if a player in the final year of their contract “withholds services” for more than 30 days, they will be in violation of their contract and could be blocked from becoming a free agent until the team he last played for “expressly agrees otherwise.” So even if Harden did want to go play in China next year, he would need the Sixers approval if he holds out for more than 30 days and isn’t traded by the team this season.
But let’s say Harden did manage to get himself over to China, there’s no doubt he would put up ridiculous numbers as many former NBA players have in the past. He would be the biggest former NBA star to ever go play overseas, and would immediately become the face of any team he signed with. The money is nowhere near as lucrative, as the Chinese Basketball Association, the biggest league in China, allows just $5 million to be spent on foreign players. It would be a significant pay cut for Harden, who is set to make $35.6 million this season alone. But if Harden chooses to play there closer to the end of his career, perhaps that money won’t matter as much as it does right now.
The NBA schedule was released on Thursday and we’ve tracked key dates from all angles, including games to circle for the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks and Warriors. Below we are looking at reunion dates, when a marquee player who has switched teams will be making his first trip back to his former home arena as a visiting player (Gabe Vincent or Max Strus returning to Miami is cool and all, but it’s not going to make this list, nor is Grant Williams going back to Boston or Bruce Brown returning to Denver). We’re looking at the big fish here.
Games are listed in chronological order. Let’s get to it.
*LP denotes League Pass
Chris Paul in Phoenix: Warriors at Suns — Nov. 22 (ESPN) Paul returns to the Valley with the Warriors after spending three seasons with the Suns and helping lead them to the 2021 Finals. Paul basically aged out in Phoenix, which brought in Bradley Beal to form a big three with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, but he was the key figure in getting that franchise on a title-contending trajectory.
Mikal Bridges in Phoenix: Nets at Suns — Dec. 13 (LP) Bridges wasn’t a marquee player in Phoenix, but he became one in Brooklyn and he’ll surely have an extra hop in his step for this one. Bridges was traded to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant deal but didn’t come back to Phoenix post-trade last season.
Jordan Poole in Golden State: Wizards at Warriors — Dec. 22 (ESPN) Poole was a big part of the Warriors’ 2022 championship but only lasted one season after signing a four-year $140 million contract. Things ended pretty badly for Poole with Golden State, starting with the punch heard round the basketball world from Draymond Green and finishing with an abysmal postseason showing in 2023. He’ll be a go-to guy in Washington and will surely be looking to jack up plenty of shots against his old team.
Jalen Brunson in Dallas: Knicks at Mavericks — Jan. 11 (LP) Brunson didn’t play in New York’s only trip to Dallas last season, so this will actually mark his first time on the American Airlines court as a visiting player. This will be a tough one for Mavericks fans. Letting Brunson get away looked bad at the time. It’s borderline stomach-turning now.
Kevin Durant in Brooklyn: Suns at Nets — Jan. 31 (ESPN) Durant only played eight regular season games for the Suns after the trade last year and none of them were in Brooklyn. Durant’s time with the Nets was muddled. He performed at an MVP level when he played, but they never made it past the second round and he eventually tried to get his coach and GM fired before he forced his way out.
Marcus Smart in Boston: Grizzlies at Celtics — Feb. 4 (ESPN) Smart will receive a massive ovation when he returns to face the Celtics as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. With Derrick White arguably supplanting him as the better player, Smart became expendable. Kristaps Porzingis is in Boston as a result.
Bradley Beal in Washington: Suns at Wizards — Feb. 4 (NBA TV) It’s only fitting that on the same night Smart returns to Boston, Beal’s return to face the Wizards will get the stepchild NBA TV treatment, where Wizards playoff games were stuck for years in the Wall-Beal era.
Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn: Mavericks at Nets — Feb. 6 (TNT) Like Durant, Irving will also be making his first trip back to Brooklyn as Dallas didn’t play the Nets following last year’s trade. This is the one I’m looking forward to the most. Irving absolutely torpedoed the Nets over multiple seasons. I would assume a massive round of boos are in order.
Fred VanVleet in Toronto: Rockets at Raptors — Feb. 9 (LP) VanVleet was an integral part of the Raptors’ first championship as a franchise. He got a huge deal with the Rockets and rightfully left as Toronto continues to toe the line of keeping its core intact and finally entering the rebuild phase.
Damian Lillard in Portland? Heat at Blazers — Feb. 27 (TNT) Well, look what we have here, the Miami Heat in Portland, for the Blazers’ lone nationally televised game of the season, almost directly AFTER the trade deadline. Might the league be anticipating a Damian Lillard deadline trade to Miami? It hasn’t happened yet, but keep the date circled on your calendar. Adam Silver certainly has done so.