The Pelicans signed center Greg Stiemsma to a one-year, $2.7 million contract Wednesday, according to several media reports.
New Orleans also waived forward Lance Thomas, the team announced.
NBA transactions became official Wednesday.
Stiemsma, 27, was waived July 7 by the Minnesota Timberwolves after one season. He averaged 4.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 76 games, playing 15.9 minutes per game. He broke into the NBA with the Boston Celtics in 2011-12 and played 55 games, averaging 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 13.9 minutes.
Stiemsma, 6-foot-11, 260 pounds, gives the Pelicans a big-body presence in the middle to go along with Jeff Withey, a 7-foot rookie from Kansas who was obtained from Portland in a trade in which last year’s starter in New Orleans, Robin Lopez, was sent to the Trail Blazers.
Calls to Stiemsma’s agent, Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein, were not returned.
Thomas’ agent, Raleigh, N.C.-based John Spencer, said Thomas was surprised he was released by the team, which had an option to retain him for next season at $884,293. The Pelicans also renounced the rights to veteran guard Roger Mason, small forward Xavier Henry and power forward Lou Amundson.
After acquiring Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and guard Anthony Morrow, New Orleans got near the salary cap of $58.678 million for this coming season. Holiday and Evans will make $11 million this season, joining Eric Gordon, the team’s highest-paid player at $14 million. Morrow reportedly was signed for the veterans minimum and is scheduled to make $1,027,424.
Spencer said waiving Thomas took some pressure off the Pelicans financially.
“Lance was surprised it actually came to that, with (the Pelicans) being up against the salary cap after they signed (Anthony) Morrow (on Tuesday),” Spencer said. “But (Thomas) understands the business, and his contract would have had to been guaranteed by a certain date.”
Spencer said he spoke with Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps, and it’s possible Thomas could return to the Pelicans. Spencer said Thomas, who has been participating in player development workouts with the team, still will play on the Pelicans’ Summer League team.
He, however, will have to wait 48 hours to clear waivers, according to NBA rules.
Last season, Thomas, who played at Duke, averaged 2.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 10.9 minutes, but he is known more for his defense and hustle.
In his first year in the league, 2011-12 with New Orleans, he averaged 4.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 15.0 minutes.
Perhaps his best game last season came against Detroit and New Orleans native Greg Monroe, when Thomas’ defense down the stretch helped key the team’s victory.
Last season, Pelicans coach Monty Williams often said his team did not play with enough force, or intensity. Stiemsma is expected to help with that, although he has been known to get in foul trouble. Physical defense is considered his specialty. Before going to the Celtics, he played in the NBA Development League in 2010 and was its Defensive Player of the Year. He made his NBA debut against New Orleans on Dec. 28, 2011, and had two points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. Most important, he blocked six shots.
Stiemsma, who was paid $2.575 million last season, helped Wisconsin to the Big Ten Tournament championship in 2008 but went undrafted. He played professionally in Turkey and South Korea before playing with Sioux Falls of the D-League.
Mason, who was in his 10th season in 2012-13, is known for his professionalism and ability to be productive at a moment’s notice, even after not playing for a few games. He is the biggest loss among those released in an effort to create cap space.
Henry never really developed during his two seasons with the Hornets. Amundson signed on with the team last season after Jason Smith was lost for the season with a torn right labrum. The team has a buyout option on Smith.
The team scheduled a news conference Thursday to make what it said is a major announcement.
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