Underrated talent shines through outbreak

With the recent surge in the Omicron variant of COVID-19 throughout the nation including the sports world, professional sports were in jeopardy once again. However, the NBA’s hardship exception has saved the league’s season from a suspension.

The hardship exception allows teams to exceed the 15-player roster limit with temporary roster spots in times when four or more players are out due to injury or illness. 

With hundreds of players in the league entering the health and safety protocols just prior to the holidays, this rule was displayed in full effect when numerous teams faced COVID-19 outbreaks.

As a result of the outbreak, 11 games were postponed, as teams didn’t have enough players ready to suit up. It looked as if the league was heading into the direction of being suspended like in the 2019-2020 season. Other sporting leagues, such as the National Hockey League, paused its season going into the holidays.

To prevent further postponement, teams have signed players to 10-day contracts using the hardship exception. Different from the standard 10-day deal that is given in a normal season, these contracts are for players filling in for those in the health and safety protocols. 

These temporary players are often from the NBA G League, with some being veterans who are looking for another shot at playing in the league. Most notably, veterans Lance Stephenson, Isaiah Thomas and Joe Johnson returned to the NBA on 10-day contracts with various teams.

Several players took advantage of the given opportunity and took the league by notice, showing they deserve a spot on a roster. Stephenson has shown out with his 10-day contract with the Indiana Pacers since returning to NBA play, scoring 30 points against the Nets and putting up 16 points and 14 assists against the Jazz in the following game. His impressive play led the Pacers to sign him to a second 10-day hardship contract, and they intend to keep him for the rest of the season.

Another player who made the most out of a 10-day deal is veteran Bismack Biyombo who averaged 13.5 points on 86.4 percent efficiency, six rebounds and two blocks in his first two games with the Phoenix Suns. Following the team’s success with Biyombo, the Suns signed him for the remainder of the season.

As COVID-19 inevitably continues to spread and cause more players to be sidelined, even more 10-day contracts will be given out to those who are looking to stick around the league.

From big name veterans to promising young NBA hopefuls, teams across the league and basketball fans will be impressed by a lot of talent that was left forgotten or unnoticed.