A Tantalizing Love Affair – The 10-Day Contract

Earl Boykins #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks

Earl Boykins #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks

A Tantalizing Love Affair – The 10-day Contract


A beautiful entertainer from your home town has recently become available. You have adored her for many years from afar, always feeling that you could win her love if given the chance. You stayed close to home and kept your options open, waiting for the day when you would seize your opportunity. You are overjoyed when, upon your next encounter, she conveys that she has always had an interest in you, but hadn’t had the time to explore a relationship. She is about to go on tour, but she invites you on the road with her to continue your acquaintance. Your heart races as you think of the time you will spend with her, the glamorous life you will experience, and ultimately what will come of your relationship.

The scenario of this alluring tryst markedly resembles the emotions felt by players who are hoping to be signed to 10-day contracts. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, today, January 5th, marks the day when teams can sign available players to such deals. Larry Coon, in his NBA Salary Cap FAQ explains:

A 10-day contract is just that, a player contract which lasts ten days (or three games, whichever comes later). These contracts are used to replace players who are on injured reserve. A team may sign a player to two 10-day contracts in one season (they may or may not be consecutive). After the second 10-day contract, the team can only retain the player by signing him for the remainder of the season.

The 10-day contract then, is a chance for the signed player to step up and secure a coveted NBA roster spot. Like our lover from the introduction, many of them have been waiting for such an opportunity their whole lives. Most players signed to 10-day contracts come from the NBA’s Developmental League. Although there are higher paying jobs to be had overseas, players in the D-League have “kept their options open,” so to speak; taken less money to stay state-side, and hoped for the chance to play for fully guaranteed money in the NBA. It can be fruitful too, as the 10-day contract will likely pay the “call-up” (as players brought up from the D-League are often called) more than they earn over an entire season in the D-League. They will go from riding in buses and playing in front of empty crowds, to flying in jets and playing in packed arenas.

Adam Kennedy from HoopsWorld counted Shaun Livingston, Anthony Tolliver, Cartier Martin, Reggie Williams, Alonzo Gee, Mike Harris, and Earl Barron among others who last year alone turned 10-day contracts into successful stints elsewhere, leading to guaranteed money. (See The 10-Day Contract.) Current NBA veterans who have been signed to such deals in seasons past include Earl Boykins, Raja Bell, and Matt Carroll.

Alas, the ending isn’t always a happy one. After all, teams are often signing 10-day contracts merely to ensure that their roster meets the required league minimum of 12 men. Even 12th men with full guarantees are played rarely, if at all. With comparatively little invested in such call-ups, they do not represent a major investment that a coach will feel strongly compelled to play. It would be as if the female entertainer mentioned in the outset got on the road and realized that, between rehearsals, promotional appearances, and performances, she didn’t have the time to pursue a romantic relationship. Yes, the player’s opportunity then will have turned into little more than an all-expense paid road trip with court-side seats to NBA games.

In other cases, the call-up may actually get some in-game action. But a team may only need the player to replace a man with a short-term injury; or a different player with a guaranteed contract may soon return to supplant the 10-day signee. In either case, it’s back to bus rides and shared hotel rooms in the D-League.

Even if there is no other returning player, instead of extending the signee a deal for the remainder of the season, a team may opt to give another player a chance at earning the roster spot. Remember, the rules only limit the number of 10-day contracts a team can give to an individual player. They are free to sign different players to 10-day deals. Unless a player highly impresses with his performance, and the team fears someone else picking him up, a club has no financial incentive to quickly guarantee him, when it could otherwise shop around.

None of this is to say that teams are interested only in filling quotas or that players signed to 10-day contracts are merely pawns in a numbers game. While a 10-day contract may indeed translate into a long career in the league they have always dreamed of playing in, they can often amount to simply a failed winter-fling. So, then, you may be watching your favorite team tonight and see a player on the bench or in the game whom you do not recognize. If you do, learn his name quickly – he may be gone in 10 days.

Other information used in this article was taken from Waiting for the Call, by Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times, February 4, 2005.

Jason Frazier is a contributor to Stacheketball. Follow him on Twitter: @NBA_Wiz.

3 thoughts on “A Tantalizing Love Affair – The 10-Day Contract

  1. Sundiata Gaines may be my favorite player ever that got a 10-Day Contract. His game-winner against the Cavs last year is one of the most heartwarming stories ever.

    • An excellent example! and one I didn't think of for this article. Clips of that shot were all over SportsCenter that week.

  2. Pingback: Who is Othyus Jeffers? « Wiz of Awes | A Washington Wizards blog

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