FRIDAY, 10:04am: The deal is official, the team announced via press release.
THURSDAY, 11:27am: The deal will be non-guaranteed, Mayberry writes.
WEDNESDAY, 11:58am: The Thunder have decided on Ish Smith as the player they’d like to sign once the league gives the go-ahead to add a 16th man, reports Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). Smith took a physical for the team today and could be ready to play as soon as Friday presuming the physical turns up OK, Mayberry adds. The Thunder have been waiting for the league to approve their request for a hardship provision that would allow them to temporarily add another healthy body amid a rash of injuries. They finished last night’s game against the Raptors with six healthy players. The terms of the deal are unclear and the Thunder have the capacity to exceed the minimum salary, but it’s most likely for the minimum without a guarantee, since Oklahoma City would have to drop back to 15 players once they regain their health.
Smith will fill a void at point guard, where the Thunder are without Russell Westbrook, who’s out at least another month or so after undergoing surgery on his broken right hand. The 26-year-old Smith has spent his four seasons in the NBA on the fringe of his team’s rotation, at best, but he’s coming off a career year with the Suns that netted him a fully guaranteed minimum-salary contract with the Rockets this summer. Houston let him go before opening night amid a numbers crunch and strong play from Isaiah Canaan. A report earlier this week indicated that the Thunder had reached out to Smith, and Oklahoma City also apparently had interest in Gal Mekel that predated Westbrook’s injury.
The league provides for teams to sign an extra player if four or more players have missed at least three games and are expected to continue to miss time, according to Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ. The Pelicans received a 16th roster spot late last season, and the same benefit was accorded the Timberwolves in 2012/13. The Thunder have run up against difficulty in securing that provision because they first had to put three regular season games behind them, and because an independent physician reportedly believed Anthony Morrow would return sooner than expected. Once other players accrued their third missed game last night, it appeared the Thunder had satisfied the requirements to claim the hardship.