Shortly after last night's game, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced that point guard Sebastian Telfair had been waived from the roster. This move cuts the roster to 15 with a few players nearing a return from injury (most notably Russell Westbrook) and the hardship exception due to expire soon.
The hardship exception was originally used to sign Ish Smith on November 7th, but the Thunder elected to keep him over Telfair as the team's third point guard. In 16 games this season (including one start), Telfair averaged 8.4 points on 36.8% shooting to go with 2.8 assists and 1.9 rebounds. Meanwhile, Smith is averaging 1.8 points in 5.5 minutes per game through six appearances this season.
The Thunder had no need for both Telfair and Smith, with Westbrook's impending return from injury. Westbrook had fractured his right hand in the Thunder's second game of the season, and could be back as soon as Friday's game against the New York Knicks. Kevin Durant and Mitch McGary are also nearing a return from their own injuries, with both players making it through portions of practice recently. The hardship exception officially expires when the first of those players returns.
Darnell Mayberry at The Oklahoman writes:
The Thunder's decision to waive Telfair as opposed to apply for a third 10-day stint on Smith serves as confirmation that the team is confident that either Durant, Westbrook or rookie forward Mitch McGary will be available at some point over the next three games. Had the Thunder applied for and been granted a third consecutive 10-day stint on Smith under the league's hardship rules, Durant and Westbrook would have been ineligible to play until those 10 days passed.
The contract Telfair signed back in July was guaranteed, meaning the Thunder will continue to pay the remainder of the $915,243 owed to him through the season. The 29-year-old Telfair spent last season in China due to a lack of interest around the NBA, and it's unclear if he'll be able to latch on with another NBA team this season.
Mayberry also noted Telfair's goodbye to OKC:
“It’s been a honor and thanks to all the okc fans that showed me love while I was here,” Telfair wrote. “Good luck to all my teammates as they work for a ring! All love #BA #headup”