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More bandaids: Josh Smith joining the New Orleans Pelicans via hardship exemption

The well-traveled big man is expected to be available against the Kings.

NBA: Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A day after the Pelicans lost Anthony Davis to a knee injury and suddenly found themselves uncomfortably thin up front, New Orleans decided to take a leap of faith on Josh Smith Wednesday evening.

With the team having at least four players unable to play for a minimum of two weeks (Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik, Solomon Hill, Frank Jackson and Rajon Rondo), the Pelicans used a recently granted hardship exemption to sign Smith to an unguaranteed contract.

According to Shams Charania, Smith is expected to be in uniform for Thursday’s game against the Kings in Sacramento.

Regardless of whether the poor performances by Cheick Diallo and Dante Cunningham against Portland or the threat of more missed time by Davis pushed the front office into action, Smith gives Alvin Gentry another much needed option off the bench. Considering the positive impact so far by one emergency fill-in veteran, Jameer Nelson, and New Orleans off to a 1-3 start, strengthening the front line seemed almost mandatory.

Remember, the Pelicans had a good look at Smith over the summer. He was with the players when they held voluntary workouts at the University of Kentucky, and then Adrian Wojnarowski reported the front office later worked him out in New Orleans.

Although Smith is four years younger than Nelson, he hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2015-16 campaign. For both the Clippers and Rockets during that season, Smith proved incredibly inefficient, combining for a 36.4 FG%, a 28.7 3P% and a 55.2 FT%.

In my opinion, the front office isn’t expecting Smith to be some sort of savior, but rather just a body and, if fortunate, some lightning in a bottle. With Davis possibly set to miss a game or two, New Orleans needed an additional player at the four and five. Maybe Smith can surprise everyone like Jordan Crawford did last spring.


If not, don’t fret — the addition is likely only temporary.