First Cup: Thursday

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "After a busy summer, the Magic's payroll for the upcoming season has ballooned to nearly $80 million, well above the league's luxury-tax threshold. At the end of the regular season, any team with a payroll over $69.92 million must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax for the amount above $69.92 million. The Magic currently have 11 players under contract, and General Manager Otis Smith wants to sign another backup point guard and another big man. When contacted Wednesday, Smith said he doesn't expect any deals for the next couple of weeks. 'Still looking and having conversations,' Smith said. Former Miami Heat player Jason Williams could be a possibility at point guard, but the New York Knicks have the exclusive rights to negotiate with him through Thursday. The Magic had been interested in Golden State restricted free agent C.J. Watson, but the only realistic way the Magic could obtain him would be through a sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors. With the major offseason additions already made, Alex Martins said the Magic will lose $40 million during the upcoming season. But the team hopes to break even once it moves into Amway Center. The revenue from the naming-rights deal will help reach that goal, he said."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "With the Amare Stoudemire trade nowhere near happening -- according to multiple sources -- the Warriors are left with few options. It may not be the worst thing in the world, though. If this were the roster heading into the season, the Warriors would get a chance to play their young studs big minutes, getting them the experience they need. Also, the Warriors might be setting themselves up to be players next offseason, when a wealth of talent is expected to be available. It isn't too far fetched to think the combination of free agents aplenty and rough economic times could land the Warriors a good player at a good price. Sitting on $9 million in expiring contracts, with players who will be even more tradable next season, the Warriors just might be able to make a run at an All-Star who wound up with fewer options than anticipated. Of course, if they add a big contract now, they probably wouldn't be able to take advantage of serendipity. Keeping the current roster figures to mean another struggling season, even if the Warriors are better than last year's 27-55 squad. If this is it, perhaps the greatest hope is that the Warriors can scrap into contention for a playoff spot."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Not sure which is the bigger Knick story today. That Jerry Stackhouse is working out for them or a Guinness record-setting 200-pound matzoh ball is being wheeled to a Lower East Side deli in Manhattan this morning in honor of the Knicks-Maccabi Tel Aviv exhibition in October. In truth, I think the matzoh ball has a better jumper than Stackhouse right now. Last night's Post slot editor, the venerable Kevin Kenney talked about combining the two news events if only Jerry's name was Jerry Stackowitz. The 3-foot-high matzoh ball is another publicity stunt to trump up ticket sales for Maccabi-Knicks, with proceeds of ticket sales going to Migdahl Ohr - the important Israeli charity for disadvantaged kids. Not sure if the Stackhouse workout is a publicity stunt either. He looks older than Donnie Walsh. Are the Knicks playing the field to get guys like Nate Robinson and Ramon Sessions to sign with them? There's so many pieces to this puzzle, I'm not sure Donnie knows where it is going."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The Lakers cannot hang 2009-10 championship banners just yet. The Celtics were the best team last season until an injury to Kevin Garnett placed them in the pack with Cleveland and Orlando. Now KG is back, and the Celtics have a super sub with former Piston Rasheed Wallace. Sheed is in a perfect spot. He won't have to put starter's minutes on his legs and will not be asked to carry the team. He loves being a role player anyway and should play with less angst than in Detroit. He respects the Celtics organization and KG and will be easier to harness on his bad days. The Pistons allowed him to act any way he wanted without repercussions. That won't be tolerated as much in Boston."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Obtaining a visa to play in the United States remains a major irritant for the non-Americans in the league. Most of the time the NBA teams turn their attorneys loose on the immigration matter. But as Omri Casspi is learning -- as did Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu back in the day -- the process is not hassle-free. Multiple time-consuming meetings at the U.S. Embassy remain common. In Casspi's case, the Kings rookie appeared for a 7:30 a.m., appointment on Tuesday and was required to return again Wednesday to finalize the paperwork. He sounded relieved to have the matter resolved. 'Done, over,' he said afterward. 'I'm ready to go.' "

  • Fabian Lyon of The Miami Herald: "Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem on Thursday will visit Jamaica on a four-day goodwill mission to assist in the distribution of school supplies, clothes and athletic gear for children. Haslem has visited Jamaica before but this is the first time he will get an up-close look at the hardships many Jamaican youths face. 'I want the kids to know whether studying to become a doctor or playing professional basketball it takes hard work,' Haslem said. 'Things are not going to go your way all the time. There are going to be bumps in the road.' Haslem will be part of a contingent that includes Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Wali Jones, who formerly worked in the Miami Heat front office, and Tournament of Champions, Inc., director Wesley Frater."

  • Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post: "This business, of course, is sports media. If I were offering career guidance, I'd tell Brendan Haywood to go find a nice quiet job behind a cheese counter somewhere, but he's planning to transition into media when his playing days are done. He's already been on TV, most recently on Comcast SportsNet's Wizards set while he was injured, and he has writing experience from his blog on Yardbarker. Radio was the one gap on his résumé, he said, and hence this week's experiment. ... At this point, Haywood is probably the Wizards' biggest media producer. Gilbert Arenas's blog is quieter than Verizon Center during a Grizzlies visit. Etan Thomas now writes about politics as a member of the Thunder. The rapping Dee Brown has long since departed. And so it's Haywood who will be interacting with callers Friday night -- 'If someone calls in and says, 'Haywood, I think you suck,' oh well, thanks for calling,' he said. It's Haywood on the hook for three hours of content. 'I'm gonna have to start swallowing down some Vaseline like Stephon Marbury because my throat might get sore,' he joked. And it's Haywood hoping to score an exclusive interview with Arenas. So now he k
    nows what that feels like, anyhow."