10-Day Contracts

January 4 at 1:59pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Usually, teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts on January 5th each year. Since tomorrow is a Sunday, the NBA will wait until Monday, the next business day, to renew the annual tradition of the ultimate on-the-job tryout in professional sports.

The 10-day contract has been the foot in the door for several players who’ve gone on to lengthy, successful NBA careers, like Anthony Mason, Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, Kurt Rambis, Howard Eisley and several others. More recently, C.J. Watson saw his first NBA action on a pair of 10-day contracts with the Warriors in 2008, and he’s since blossomed into a premier backup point guard, having signed a two-year deal for about $4MM with the Pacers this past summer.

Ten-day deals also help veterans make comebacks. Chris Andersen languished in free agency for sixth months after the Nuggets used the amnesty clause to get rid of him, but a pair of 10-day contracts with the Heat kick-started a revival for the Birdman. He wound up signing for the rest of the season and played a key role on Miami’s championship team before landing much greater security with a two-year contract this past summer.

Similarly, former first-round pick Gerald Green had been out of the league for three years when he made a splash during his pair of 10-day deals with the Nets in 2011/12. That earned him a contract for the rest of the season, and he parlayed 12.9 points and 48.1% shooting in 25.2 minutes per game for the Nets into a three-year, $10.5MM contract with the Pacers the following summer.

Still, the 10-day is usually a fleeting glimpse at NBA life for players on pro basketball’s fringe. Only a fraction of last year’s 10-day signees remain in the league, as I noted earlier this season. Hunter Atkins of The New York Times followed another Nets player who signed a 10-day contract in 2011/12, chronicling Andre Emmett‘s brief return to the NBA. Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated took a similarly revealing look at the life of Zabian Dowdell as he tried to make the most of a 10-day with the Suns three years ago.

Teams can sign a player to as many as two 10-day contracts before committing to him for the rest of the season, or, as in many cases, turning him away. Clubs can terminate a 10-day contract at any time if they no longer want the player around. Ten-day deals are almost always for a pro-rated portion of the minimum salary, though agents and teams are free to negotiate the financial terms.

Usually, teams only have one player on a 10-day contract at a time, though they’re allowed to carry as many 10-day contracts as they have players on the inactive list. If a team has 13 players on the active list, it can carry one more 10-day contract than the number of inactive players it has, meaning a 15-man club could have as many as three guys on 10-day deals.

The 10-day salaries, however small, count for cap and luxury-tax purposes, so a team like the Celtics, who are perilously close to the tax threshold, may be wary of bringing anybody aboard by this method. Other teams may make liberal use of 10-day deals. The taxpaying Heat signed four players to a total of seven 10-day contracts, both NBA highs last season. The Mavericks came closest to matching that as they scrambled in vain in make the playoffs, inking four players to six 10-day deals.

Veterans who have recently been released from NBA teams, like Lou Amundson, Hilton Armstrong and Mike James, figure to draw consideration for 10-day contracts, as should notable players who’ve gone unsigned this season, like Richard Hamilton, Mickael Pietrus and Daniel Gibson. Recent D-League signees Terrence Williams, Von Wafer and Chris Smith could all see their way back to the NBA via 10-day contracts. NBA neophytes could merit 10-day deals, too, and many of them will be showing off to scouts at the five-day D-League showcase starting Sunday.

All season long, you can keep tabs on 10-day signings with the Hoops Rumors tracker. If you click “Filter,” you’ll see a menu of options that can display customized lists of 10-day signings dating back to the 2006/07 season.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

A version of this post was initially published on January 5th, 2013.

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