The Spurs’ quixotic search for a backup small forward took a left turn Friday as the team moved to sign 10-year veteran Josh Howard to a non-guaranteed contract NBA sources say.

The deal is expected to be finalized sometime this afternoon.

For the Spurs it is a low-risk move that will require patience if it is to pay off. In fact there is a good chance the 6-foot-7 Howard will not open the season on the Spurs’ 15-man roster.

Howard is 33 and coming off his second major knee surgery in less than three years having had his feel-good comeback in Minnesota sidetracked by a torn ACL in his right knee last December.

As such it is likely the next step in Howard’s journey might come not in San Antonio but a few miles up Interstate-35 inAustin.

NBA rules allow a team’s final three cuts of the preseason to be allocated to the Development League club of its choosing. If the Spurs were to waive Howard before Nov. 1 they could place him in Austin – provided he signs a D-League contract – and monitor his progress there.