Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz, Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny among fights to watch

UFC 292 takes over the TD Garden in Boston on Saturday with a pair of title fights. UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley headlines the card with women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili vs. Amanda Lemos in the co-main event. But do not let gold blind you from the other nuggets on the card.

Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman returns two years after suffering a gruesome leg break, Ian Machado Garry continues his ascent up the welterweight ladder and the violent Marlon Vera is back in action. There is a fair bit to sink your teeth into before fighters rocking gold trim make the walk.

Let’s put the magnifying glass to three fights that deserve your attention beyond Saturday’s championship doubleheader.

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Chris Weidman vs. Brad Tavares
Weidman returns to active competition for the first time since snapping his leg against Uriah Hall’s shin 28 months ago. It’s been a long and difficult road to recovery for the former UFC middleweight champion. Tavares is litmus test to gauge if Weidman can still compete for spots in the official UFC middleweight rankings. There will be a mix of trepidation and relief to see Weidman back where he belongs. Weidman is a competitor and won’t settle for anything less than a win, but a compotent performance win or lose is worth celebrating after such a horrifying injury.

Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny
Garry was originally set to fight Geoff Neal on Saturday night. It was a juicy offering between two fighters who pack a punch. Unfortunately, Neal suffered an injury and Magny slid in to save the day. Magny’s style is nowhere as conducive to an exciting fight, but he is an important measuring stick in the welterweight division. Garry has qualities that have him pegged as a potential future champion, but Magny has long been the gatekeeper between the great and elite at welterweight. There is statistically no welterweight with more Octagon reps than Magny. A win for Garry would be a huge feather in his cap.

Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz
“Chito” Vera has established himself as a hardcore fan favorite by delivering devastating knockouts to some of UFC’s most celebrated legends. His appetite for violence can be expressed in many ways. Vera boasts eight knockouts and eight submissions on his record. Cory Sandhagen rendered Vera’s offense obsolete in his last fight, “Chito” wants to make up for it. Munhoz is on the tail end of his career but a win over Chris Gutiérrez showed a commendable combination of experience, power, and grappling skills. You need to be a complete fighter if you’re going to beat Munhoz. Vera will enter as the betting favorite in pursuit of another stoppage against the old guard.

Honorable mentions: Andre Petroski vs. Gerald Meerschaert, Karine Silva vs. Maryna Moroz, Gregory Rodrigues vs. Denis Tiuliulin

Every team’s most likely next inductee, from Lakers’ LeBron James to Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of achievement for every NBA player, coach and executive — a sign that your career was not only great but also worthy of immortalization. The 2023 class is riddled with familiar NBA names, including Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich, who will all be inducted on Saturday.

Like most of the sports world, we generally have a hard time living in the present and always want to look to the future, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at all 30 NBA teams’ current roster to see who their most likely next Hall of Fame inductee would be.

Please note the key words there: First, “current roster” — the player has to be with the team at this very moment to be considered. Second, “most likely” — meaning we’re not saying that the person is certainly going to get in, but it is just the best candidate available. And lastly, “next,” indicating that the person selected has to be the one who’s going to reach the Hall of Fame the soonest.

For the purposes of this exercise, we looked at players, coaches and members of the front office (we decided to leave owners and governors out, because that’s not much fun). As you’ll see, some are extremely obvious — hi, LeBron! — and others are true head-scratchers — Wizards, yeesh!

Kevin Durant vs. Nets, Marcus Smart’s return to Boston among 10 reunion dates to circle

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

‘I’ve been patient all summer’

Another day, another talking point regarding James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers. This time the All-Star guard is saying that he thinks his relationship with the team is beyond repair. After returning from China — where he publicly called 76ers president Daryl Morey a liar — for an event he’s hosting in Houston this weekend, Harden spoke briefly about his relationship with the Sixers and the amount of patience he has with the situation.

“I’ve been patient all summer,” Harden said via KHOU 11. “For me, it’s just focus on what I can control and getting ready for this season.”

When asked if he thinks his relationship with the Sixers is beyond repair, Harden responded “I think so.”

So basically, nothing has changed since Harden requested a trade demand in late June, or since he called out Morey earlier this week and how he would never play for a team of his. Harden, who opted into a $35.6 million player option with Philadelphia in late June, is seemingly upset at Morey and the 76ers for two reasons. Harden was likely expecting a lucrative long-term offer from Philly this summer after taking a pay cut last offseason to give the team more financial flexibility. When that offer never materialized, Harden requested a trade, but those talks have fizzled.

While Harden has the patience to call Philadelphia’s bluff of ending trade talks with the Clippers (his preferred trade destination) with the intention of bringing him into training camp, there are costly ramifications on the horizon.

If Harden follows through with holding out of training camp like what’s been reported, it could cost him his free agency next summer. Because Harden is in the final year of his contract, the CBA states that if he “withholds services” for more than 30 days and isn’t traded by the Sixers this season, then he won’t be allowed to become a free agent next summer until Philadelphia “expressly agrees otherwise.”

It’s a potentially risky standoff for both sides, and Harden is likely betting on the Sixers not invoking that clause as it wouldn’t land well with other players around the league. However, the Sixers also have an obligation to get the best deal possible for the their organization going forward, so dumping Harden at the first offer also isn’t ideal. It’s a tricky situation, and as we inch closer to training camp opening on Oct. 3 the tension will only rise as both sides try to figure out the best path forward.

How to watch USA vs. Germany, live stream, TV channel, 2023 FIBA World Cup dates

Team USA basketball is one week away from starting the FIBA World Cup and appears to be on track to improve upon 2019’s seventh-place finish. Anthony Edwards, who paced all players with 21 points in an exhibition win over Greece in Abu Dhabi on Friday, is just one of the up-and-coming stars on the roster. Mikal Bridges, Jaren Jackson Jr., Cameron Johnson, and Austin Reaves also reached double figures in points en route to the 108-86 victory. The Americans are now 4-0 in exhibition games ahead of Sunday’s final tune-up against Germany.

Chemistry is improving ahead of the team’s trip to the Philippines for the World Cup and an undefeated 5-0 run could work wonders for the group’s confidence before its first real game against New Zealand on Aug. 26. Germany could be the toughest test yet, though. Dennis Schroder, Franz Wagner, Moritz Wagner, and Daniel Theis won’t make it easy in a contest loaded with NBA talent.

Here’s everything you need to know about Team USA’s upcoming schedule.