The Los Angeles Lakers have signed Stanley Johnson to a second 10-day contract, the team announced Thursday. The Lakers were in an unusual position with Johnson due to league rules. They initially signed him using a hardship exemption that was based on the number of players they had in the league’s health and safety protocols. When that 10-day deal expired, the Lakers no longer had any players in the protocols, so they couldn’t sign him with another exemption.
That left the Lakers with two options. By trading Rajon Rondo to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they managed to clear a season-long roster spot that they could have given to Johnson immediately. However, doing so would have been the pricier way of retaining him. Instead, they preferred to sign him to another 10-day deal. The issue is that league rules stipulate that teams can’t sign players to 10-day contracts under normal circumstances until Jan. 5. His contract expired on Jan. 3, so the Lakers had to wait two days. That meant playing Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings without Johnson before re-signing him.
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There are two advantages to signing Johnson to 10-day deals. The first is obvious: flexibility. If the Lakers had signed Johnson for the season only to watch him get hurt, or be ineffective, they would have to pay him regardless. By using 10-days, they can monitor his health and performance a bit longer before making a commitment. From a flexibility standpoint, this also makes it slightly easier for the Lakers to make a trade. Roster spots are rare at this point in the season, so the Lakers having the ability to keep one open could help them make a multi-player deal at the deadline.
The other advantage is financial. Minimum-salary contracts signed in-season are pro-rated, meaning they get smaller with each passing day. Even if the Lakers only save a couple of days, every dollar they don’t give to Johnson matters because of how deep into the luxury tax they are. Even if roster flexibility is a greater motivator here, money surely matters as well.
Johnson was a strong defender for the Lakers during his first 10-day deal. He started three of his five games in Los Angeles and averaged more than 25 minutes. It’s not clear what role he’ll hold moving forward, but at a bare minimum, he’s proven he deserves a longer look. The Lakers are now giving it to him.