The Washington Wizards are waiting for power forward and D.C. native Michael Smith to clear waivers today with an eye to signing him to a two-year contract, sources close to the situation said yesterday.
Smith, who was released by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday in a buyout deal, is said to have Washington at the top of a list of six teams that have inquired about his availability, according to a source close to Smith.
Any of the NBA's teams could claim Smith off waivers but they would be responsible for paying the final year of his existing contract ($2.44 million). If Smith clears waivers, the Magic would be responsible for paying Smith an already negotiated buyout. Two league sources said it is unlikely Smith will be claimed until he clears waivers at 1:30 p.m. today.
Washington does not plan to claim the 6-foot-8 Smith off waivers, according to a team source, but has discussed offering Smith its NBA-allotted $2 million salary cap exception. That would be the first-year salary of a two-year deal with an option for a third year, according to the source.
The offer is at least as much, if not more, than what the other interested teams--one of which is believed to be the Minnesota Timberwolves--have proposed, the source said.
Washington also has the advantage of being in Smith's home town, the source said. Playing on the East Coast, and especially in Washington, has been a longtime goal of Smith, a Dunbar High graduate who has spent his five-year NBA career in Sacramento and Vancouver.
Smith played with Wizards guard Mitch Richmond for four seasons in Sacramento and was a fierce competitor, Richmond said. Smith, who has averaged six points and 7.1 rebounds in his career, was traded from Vancouver to Orlando this summer in the three-team swap that sent former Maryland guard Steve Francis to Houston.
A Wizards source said the team had targeted Smith for weeks but because he was under contract with Vancouver and then Orlando, Washington did not explore trading for him because it did not want to part with any of its players. If the Wizards sign Smith, he would compete with free agent signee Aaron Williams for the starting power forward spot. To make room for Smith, Washington would have to release a player from its training-camp roster. The NBA allows teams to take only 20 players to training camp.