First Cup: Thursday

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Tuesday evening, Greg Oden passed his physical, clearing him for contact work. Wednesday, he signed his Miami Heat contract, receiving a Twitter welcome from managing partner Micky Arison and a jersey number: 20. The expectation was that he might address the media afterward, if only on a conference call. Oden, however, had a plane to catch — and the Heat have a larger plan in place. That plan is to put as little pressure on Oden as possible, to allow him to pace his rehabilitation. That plan, then, does not call for elaborate media introductions. He’s the 13th-highest paid player on the team, and those players don’t often stand in front of the media firing line. So it may be a while — as late as media day in early October — that Oden speaks to the local outlets about his condition and expectations.

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: The Trail Blazers have reached an agreement to sign veteran point guard Mo Williams, his agent, Mark Bartlestein, said Wednesday. Williams agreed to a two-year, $5.6 million contract, with a player option for the second season. Bartlestein said he expects Williams to sign the contract in the next day or two. The agent said Williams was strongly influenced by the presence of Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, with whom he worked when both were with the Clippers, and coach Terry Stotts, who coached him in Milwaukee. Williams had his breakout NBA season under Stotts in 2006-07, when he averaged 17.3 points and 6.1 assists with Milwaukee. "His relationship with Neil, with Terry, goes way back," Bartlestein said. "It's just a long-standing relationship that's built on trust." … Bartlestein said he envisions Williams coming off the bench behind starter Damian Lillard and providing the sort of instant offense he did for the Clippers in 2011-12, when he averaged 13.2 points playing behind All-Star Chris Paul.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: During negotiations to create its current collective bargaining agreement, the NBA did its best to limit the amount of money its teams would be able and willing to spend on their rosters by implementing a much more punitive luxury tax system, one that officially goes into effect this season. But that more punitive system wasn’t enough to prevent the Nets from shelling out millions of billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s personal fortune this offseason. Between completing their blockbuster draft night trade with the Celtics, re-signing Andray Blatche and signing Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson, the Nets sent their payroll soaring to more than $100 million for the coming season, which means they’ve also committed to paying a massive luxury tax bill of roughly $87 million next year. “I would say it’s no secret that we went into collective bargaining seeking a hard cap,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver — one of the main architects of the current CBA and who will replace David Stern as commissioner when Stern steps down Feb. 1 — told The Post Wednesday after speaking at the league’s Rookie Transition Program in Florham Park. “So, for the long-term health of the league, we would rather do more to level the playing field among our teams, so the teams that have disparate resources are all competing with roughly the same number of chips so to speak.” … Silver isn’t ready to say the system isn’t working because the Nets are willing to go to places where, apparently, few other team are in terms of their payroll.

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: We were speaking with a club insider a couple of weeks ago, who jokingly asked if we knew of any way to get rid of Beasley, whom he called “a cancer.” We told him we figured that Beasley would take care of that himself, eventually. So, we are prepared to make a judgment on one aspect of all this. Beasley’s remarks upon signing with the Suns are getting a lot of play since the arrest. He claimed to have learned his lesson and said, “‘I realize 10 minutes of feeling good is not really worth putting my life and my career and my legacy in jeopardy.” We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that Beasley’s legacy isn’t in jeopardy at all. In fact, he has only cemented it: He is a bust, who gets busted. That’s his legacy, and he can’t hide it under the seat or claim it belongs to a friend.

  • Reid Laymance of the Houston Chronicle: When he was in Houston before the Rockets officially announced his signing in July, Dwight Howard stopped in and bought breakfast for the folks at the Breakfast Klub one morning. Earlier this week, he was back in Aspen, Colo. (where he went to make his decision to pick the Rockets in the first place) and playing with kids in a local park. Just who does the newest Rockets star think he is? J.J. Watt? Anyway, Houston fans will be glad to take the fun, happy Dwight especially if the off-court good feelings translate to on-court success.

  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: Timberwolves guard Shabazz Muhammad was sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, reportedly for violating a rule by bringing a female guest to his hotel room. The story was first reported by USA Today. Muhammad, the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft, will be fined and required to return to finish the program next year. “We have been made aware of the circumstances surrounding Shabazz Muhammad’s dismissal from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program in New Jersey,” said Flip Saunders, the Wolves president of basketball operations, in a team news release. “The team fully supports the NBA’s rules and policies in all matters pertaining to this situation and we will abide by the league’s action.” Nearly 50 players are participating in the program, a four-day event that ends Friday. Reportedly the players were given the program’s rules just hours before Muhammad was sent home.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: After flirting with DeJuan Blair for about three weeks, the Dallas Mavericks finally signed the San Antonio Spurs' free agent center/forward to a one-year contract Wednesday for approximately $1 million. The signing of Blair gives the Mavs 15 players -- the NBA maximum -- under contract. Blair has career averages of 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. The 6-7, 270-pounder has played his entire four-year career with the Spurs after being a second-round pick from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. From 2010-'12, Blair started 127 of a possible 145 games for the Spurs and wound up averaging 8.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. But he fell out of favor with coach Gregg Popovich this past season when he played just 14 minutes per game while averaging 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. Blair will be counted on to help the Mavs in the middle where Samuel Dalembert is expected to start at center, while Brandan Wright and Bernard James will also get some time off the bench.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: Although there's not a full complement of players around for Bradley Beal, he’s back to full workouts after sitting out four months with a stress injury to his lower right leg. Beal has been training at Verizon Center since last week. He sat out summer league play in Las Vegas and didn’t partake in full-contact drills at USA Basketball minicamp last month. Beal is training with Wizards teammates Garrett Temple and Kevin Seraphin this week. Temple, a 6-6 combo guard, was re-signed as a free agent during the off-season and Seraphin bypassed on training with the French national team to work individually with coach Randy Wittman and his staff in hopes of being a more consistent option in the low post.

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: A few Pistons probably are looking forward to November matchups after the NBA released its schedule Tuesday. Josh Smith and the Pistons travel to Atlanta to face his former team, the Hawks, on Nov. 20 for the first time since Smith signed with Detroit as a free agent. Smith grew up in Atlanta and spent his entire career with the Hawks before joining the Pistons. Two nights later, the Hawks visit the Palace. … On Nov. 25 at the Palace, Brandon Jennings will face the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time since the sign-and-trade deal last week. … The Pistons visit Milwaukee on Dec. 4 to face former point guard Brandon Knight and forward Khris Middleton. Both were involved in the sign-and-trade.

  • Mitch Kunzler for the Deseret News: On Tuesday, Malone's wife, Kay, posted a picture on her Instagram account of Karl Malone alongside Jazz center Enes Kanter, who had just caught his first fish. Both seemed to be having a good time. Born in Z├╝rich, Switzerland, the 21-year-old Kanter has been a city boy his whole life, and most likely never had much of a chance to catch a fish growing up. Thanks to Malone, the young center can now cross something off his bucket list. For Malone, who has been known for his passion for the outdoors, this wasn't his first time helping someone catch a fish. In 2011, ESPN posted a video on YouTube in which he helped a young boy catch a fish as well. It appears that no matter what Karl Malone is teaching, he tends to be a good teacher. And building a relationship with Kanter on a fishing trip should be a solid building block in helping the young center develop his post game. The Jazz post players have a lot to look forward to.

  • Paul Jones of Sportsnet.ca: Anyone that considers themselves a basketball fan will know the name Patrick Ewing. Yep, Jamaican but it’s not the once dominant ex-Knick that will be suiting up but instead his son, Patrick Ewing Jr. But there are other names of Jamaican heritage that could make the club stronger but circumstances have dictated otherwise, with regards to participation. Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert actually played for Jamaica but was seeking release so he could play for the United States. Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond has Jamaican roots but was recently part of the USA Basketball’s Development Program in Las Vegas as the Americans try to nurture a new wave of young players to maintain Uncle Sam’s dominance on the world stage. What if Ben Gordon was in the line up? And who knows what the future holds but it looks like another NBA player, Ryan Hollins may, in the future, wear a Jamaican uniform in competition. But there are Jamaican connections to the Canadian team as well. Tyler Ennis, a cornerstone of the Canadian National Junior team, who will be attending Syracuse University this fall, has a brother, Dylan, who will suit up for Jamaica. 2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Jermaine Anderson, Jevohn Shepherd, Andrew Nicholson, and Junior Cadougan will wear the Maple Leaf but all have Jamaican lineage. And as Anderson, who is affectionately known as “Rock” laughed, when identifying the Jamaican-Canadians playing for the red and white “and we’ve adopted (Brady) Heslip too.” And let’s not forget one of the decision makers near the top for Canada, Rowan Barrett, executive vice-president and assistant general manager is yep, of Jamaican ancestry. So as fans that take in the two contests over the next few days need to remember that the Caribbean Island that occupies a small part of the world map has a far reach when it comes to athletics in a number of sports.