NBA Call-Up's Tiny Window to Impress

NBA Call-Up's Tiny Window to Impress

Andre Emmett was shooting jumpers in an empty arena at the edge of Nevada when the N.B.A. came calling two weeks ago. Practice had ended for the Reno Bighorns of the N.B.A. Development League, but Emmett, 29, had retreated to his “comfort area,” the court, a source of salvation and frustration for him. He was nearly seven years removed from his last N.B.A. game, and now the Nets were making him an offer: a contract for 10 days.

Ten days to make an impression. Ten days to redefine his life. N.B.A. teams use these contracts to fill spots on their benches. But the commitment is painfully meager: the player is signed for 10 days but can be released after one. If he lasts, he can be offered a second 10-day contract. When that ends, he must be signed for the rest of the season. Or just released.

It is a tightrope, a lonesome reality show, an almost cruel audition far removed from the world of N.B.A. All-Stars, who gathered last weekend in Orlando, Fla., to share their good fortune. Of about two dozen players who signed 10-day contracts last season, a third were signed for the rest of the season. But Emmett was not complaining.

He was certain that if he got a fair shot, he could stick this time. Working in his favor was that the Nets had six games scheduled in the 10 days, which meant a lot of potential chances for him to get on the court, and a payday of $50,000 to $60.000. But he had little time to think that far ahead when he got the call. His flight was taking off in 45 minutes.

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