Thunder Eye Mekel Amid Westbrook Injury

Russell Westbrook broke the second metacarpal bone in his right hand during Thursday’s game against the Clippers, and the “early indication” is that he’ll miss four to six weeks, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. The Thunder had already expressed interest in former Mavs point guard Gal Mekel, reports David Pick of (Twitter link). Mekel is set to clear waivers today if he goes unclaimed, but the next step remains unclear for the Thunder, who have just eight healthy players following a rash of injuries that includes Kevin Durant‘s fractured right foot.

The Thunder, who have a full 15-man roster, applied to the league for a hardship provision before Westbrook’s injury that would allow them to add a 16th player, but the NBA turned them down because they had yet to play three regular season games, USA Today’s Sam Amick tweets. The hardship rule requires that at least four players miss three or more regular season games, so Oklahoma City is likely to apply again after their third game on Saturday, according to TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow and Grant Jerrett are all dealing with injuries of varying severity.

Lance Thomas is one of the team’s few remaining healthy players, but his non-guaranteed contract is the only one on the Thunder’s roster that doesn’t include a full guarantee, as our roster counts show, so Oklahoma City has little flexibility absent the ability to add a 16th man. The Thunder are about $1.74MM shy of the luxury tax line, but signing a 16th player to a non-guaranteed prorated minimum-salary deal would allow them to maintain at least a sliver of breathing room.

Sebastian Telfair is the only healthy point guard on the roster, as Mayberry points out, though Jackson is expected back as early as Saturday. Still, if the Thunder prioritize the addition of a point guard, the pool of free agents at the position includes Will Bynum, John Lucas III, Ish Smith and others.

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