Usually, teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts on January 5th. Since today is a Saturday, 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. It’s also helped veterans make comebacks. 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 last season, earning a contract for the rest of the season. He parlayed 12.9 points and 48.1% shooting in 25.2 minutes per game for New Jersey into a three-year, $10.5MM contract with the Pacers this summer.
Still, the 10-day is usually a fleeting glimpse at NBA life for players on pro basketball’s fringe. Hunter Atkins of The New York Times followed Andre Emmett on his 10-day deal with the Nets last season, and 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 two 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. The 10-day can also be terminated at any time.
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. Players on 10-day deals are paid a prorated portion of the minimum salary. Since the minimum salary increases for players as they accrue more service time, the league compensates any team that signs a vet with three or more years of service for the amount greater than that required to sign a two-year vet. This is so older players are not at a disadvantage to younger, cheaper talent.
The 10-day salaries, however small, count for cap and luxury-tax purposes, so a team like the Bulls, who face a hard cap, may be wary of bringing anybody aboard by this method. Chicago will have just enough money to sign four 10-day contracts this season once the team completes its deal with Daequan Cook, provided the Bulls don't make any other moves.
Other teams, especially those that are particularly hard-hit by injuries, may make liberal use of 10-day deals. Such was the case with the Hornets last season, who signed a half dozen players to 10-day contracts, including Lance Thomas, who's now the team's starting small forward.
Players who have recently been released from NBA teams, like Terrel Harris, Dominic McGuire and Josh Childress, figure to draw consideration. Ten-day candidates from the D-League include Ron Howard, a swingman from Valparaiso who is this year's leading scorer among players without NBA experience, having notched 21.3 PPG in 14 contests for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Mark Deeks, writing for The Basketball Jones, recently compiled an extensive list of former NBA players who have a shot at returning to the league soon, and some figure to do so on 10-day contracts.
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.
The 10-day contract opens a slight crack in the window of opportunity for NBA hopefuls, but few are able to slip through to stay. Of the 32 players who received at least one 10 day contract last season according to our 10-day tracker, only three have signed as free agents so far this summer. Each of those players signed two 10-day contracts followed by a deal for the rest of 2011-12.
Green, of course, is the standard-bearer for last year's group of 10-day signees, averaging 12.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 25.2 minutes per game with a 15.8 PER in 31 contests for the Nets in his first NBA action since a 38-game stint with the Mavs in 2008/09. It was an inspiring comeback for the 18th overall pick in the 2005 draft, but his story is far from typical.
Aside from those three, there were another three 10-day signees who impressed their teams enough to warrant contracts that kept them from this summer's free agent market. The Rockets picked up Courtney Fortson's minimum-salary team option for 2012/13, guaranteeing his salary for this season. Donald Sloan has a non-guaranteed deal for this season with the Cavs, as does Lance Thomas with the Hornets. Others had non-guaranteed deals but were waived, as was the case with Jerome Dyson, who was used for salary-matching purposes in the Robin Lopez three-team swap before getting waived by the Suns.
Of the remaining free agents who signed 10-day contracts last year, Terrence Williams, who we heard this week is drawing interest from the Wizards, is probably the most likely to get another NBA deal before training camp, with Mike James and Bobby Simmons distinct possibilities as well. There's still time for more of them to sign, but guaratanteed contracts don't come easy at this stage of the offseason, and those who do sign will likely have to battle for a roster spot in training camp. That would essentially put them back where they were when they signed their 10-day contracts, once more in a position where they have to prove their worth as NBA players.