The Indiana Pacers announced Monday they have been granted a second injury hardship relief exception from the NBA due to their current status with injured players, and A.J. Price will remain with the team.
Indiana initially became eligible to sign a 16th player (A.J. Price) to the roster after four injured players (Paul George, George Hill, C.J. Watson, and David West) missed at least three consecutive games and were expected, per the opinion of an independent physician, to miss two additional weeks.
The hardship exception, granted by the league as a stop-gap during only extreme and trying circumstances, should not be confused with traditional 10-day contracts. A 10-day contract is exactly what it sounds it like in that it allows teams to sign players to contracts which last 10 days. Notably, teams are not allowed to sign players to 10-day contracts until January 5 of each season, per Part 80 of Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ.
An important distinction between the two means of obtaining temporary relief is that a team can only sign an individual player to two 10-day contracts in a season. After that point, said team would have to sign the player for the remainder of the season if they wanted to retain him for any amount of additional time. Conversely, the league granted hardship exception lasts until one of a squad's four injured players is ruled able to return to the court. Another important distinction is that the hardship exception essentially creates a 16th roster spot, whereas teams cannot have more 10-day contracts than they have players on their inactive list.
Clearly a confusing process, here are the two most important takeaways from all of this information: 1) A.J. Price will remain a Pacer for a while longer and 2) The fact that the Pacers were granted a second hardship exception is an indicator that at least four of the now six injured players are not any closer to returning to game action:
- Paul George (open tibia-fibula fracture)
- George Hill (left knee contusion)
- C.J. Watson (bruised right foot)
- David West (sprained right ankle)
- Rodney Stuckey (sore left foot)
- C.J. Miles (sore right calf)
While missing six of the team's top seven players is most definitely a drawback, Price's arrival has been a silver lining. Over his six game stay, the Pacers' 2009 NBA draft pick has averaged 13.0 points on 49.2% shooting while connecting on 40.9% of his shots from long-range (the best mark of his career). Scoring in double-figures on three occasions, his finest outing came against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday where he scored a team high 21 points and shot 63.6% from the field.
Playing (auditioning) to stay in the NBA, Price has been all the Pacers could ask for in a replacement and then some. However, the fact remains that his stint with the Pacers - though extended - is still only temporary. Already carrying a 15-man roster, Indiana would have to waive a partially guaranteed contract or make a 2-for-1 or 1-for-none trade to keep the returning Pacer in Blue-and-Gold for the long haul. Given that the team already has three point guards (George Hill, C.J. Watson, and Donald Sloan), such a move remains unlikely.