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Posted: Monday March 2, 2009 1:12AM; Updated: Monday March 2, 2009 1:25AM

Thunder release veteran forward Joe Smith

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to release veteran forward Joe Smith on Sunday, setting the stage for him to sign with a playoff contender like the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Smith, who was acquired from Cleveland in an August trade, had been relegated to the bench in Oklahoma City but could be a valuable asset for a team making a playoff push. Rumours have circulated that the Cavaliers would be interested in Smith, particularly after they lost Ben Wallace to a broken leg.

Smith averaged 8.1 points and 5.0 rebounds in 27 games down the stretch with Cleveland last year. He was averaging 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds this season with the Thunder, but hadn't played the last eight games.

"This allows us the roster flexibility to look to add pieces. I feel like having Malik (Rose), Chucky (Atkins) and Desmond (Mason) continues to give us a veteran presence," Thunder general manager Sam Presti told The Associated Press. "Right now, a lot of the minutes in our frontcourt are being used up by some of our young guys."

Smith was included in the Thunder's trade to New Orleans for centre Tyson Chandler that fell apart when Chandler failed his physical. Soon after, reports surfaced that Smith might instead seek a buyout so he could pursue a contract with a contender like Cleveland, the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft, Smith had repeatedly denied that he was seeking a buyout.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
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