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Mastering the 10-Day Contract: Ghosts of Wolves Past

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In the wake of the Lance Stephenson signing, we take a trip down memory lane.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Media Day Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA season is nearly two-thirds complete, a split in time that for many NBA franchises signals a post-all star break push for the playoffs. In Minnesota, we better know this time of year to be “10-day season.” A time to familiarize oneself with the pronunciation of a foreigner’s name or to reacquaint oneself with a former college star who has since been averaging a triple-double in some obscure country.

Rational or not, 10-day contracts bring excitement. Look no further than Lance Stephenson’s Wednesday debut. On the same day he signed, Stephenson played the entirety of the crunch time minutes in a Wolves win against an Eastern Conference force.

It’s fun to get excited. Squint just enough to ignore the fact that Stephenson once had the worst three-point shooting season of all-time. Let’s go ahead and polish the Lance Stephenson shaped turd into a potential 3-and-D wing of the future. Why not?

In this excitement of Stephenson, I thought it would be fun to look back at a few of my favorite 10-day contracts in the not so distant past of the Wolves.

(Warning, David Kahn talk below)

Lazar Hayward: Small Forward, Marquette University

The 10-day contract Lazar Hayward signed with the Wolves during the 2012-13 season was actually his second stint in Minnesota. Hayward’s first stint lasted a whole season after being selected 30th overall by the Wolves in the 2010 NBA Draft. After that season, the former first-round pick was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder to create space for J.J. Barea. In his sophomore season, Hayward played 141 minutes of garbage time for the Thunder.

This is when Lazar Hayward got interesting, and it had nothing to do with basketball. Shortly after his time in Oklahoma City, Hayward claimed to be able to see dead people. In an interview with the Star Tribune Hayward said, "I can't talk to them yet, but I have seen them."

So there’s that.

David Kahn apparently saw something in Hayward and decided to give the new medium of the afterlife an NBA contract. The Wolves signed Hayward to a 10-day contract January 8th, 2013. Hayward played in four games for the 2012-13 zombified Wolves. Hayward’s time in Minnesota was highlighted by never missing a free throw. He went 6-for-6 from the free throw line during that four-game stretch.

Lazar really killed it...

Mickael Gelabale: Small Forward, France

If you look closely, you can see Mickael Gelabale making a shot worth negative-49 points according to the Fox Sports North broadcast. Gelabale pronounced GEL-a-BALL (or something like that), was a lengthy but unathletic wing. In reacquainting myself with Gelabale (which took all of two minutes) I saw a comparison to fellow Frenchmen Boris Diaw. Yeah, I like that. Gelabale was a skinny Boris Diaw. This, of course, makes him bad.

To be honest, I only made that comparison because there is a youtube video of Gelabale and Rudy Fernandez getting in a fight during an Olympic scrimmage. The fight was broken up by Fernandez’s teammate Serge Ibaka and Gelable’s teammate Diaw. Diaw versus Ibaka, now that’s a fight I would watch. Gotta think Diaw only slaps (and wins).

Anyways, it was again Kahn who signed the mediocre forward to two 10-day contracts. Gelabale eventually earned (I use that term lightly) a contract for the rest of the season. The Frenchman was one of fifteen different Wolves players to start a game that season, starting 13 times in place of an injured... well everyone. In 644 minutes of play, Gelabale actually led the Wolves in offensive rating that season.

This was a dark time. See the below clips for anecdotal evidence.

Chris Johnson: Power Forward-Center, LSU

Wait. There’s more of the same play...

Ah yes, January 19th, 2013: Chris Johnson’s Minnesota Timberwolves debut.

Can you imagine the radio call on that play? I can.

“BAREA PUTS UP THE 18-FOOT FLOATER... JOHNSON TIPS UP THE REBOUND TO AMUNDSON... AMUNDSON DROPS THE BALL... A DIVING AMUNDSON FINDS KIRILENKO... KIRILENKO BACK TO BAREA... BAREA TIP-PASS BACK TO KIRILENKO... KIRILENKO USES THE AMUNDSON SCREEN... AND HE FINDS CHRIS JOHNSON ON THE BASELINE!”

This play get’s lost in the spectacle of the infamous Gelabale-Johnson Game. A game in which two Wolves legends debuted in the first game of their 10-day contracts. Gelabale and Johnson combined for 26 points in 39 minutes and 18 seconds. The opposing Houston Rockets, led by MVP-candidate James Harden, received a mere 18 points from their “star” in 38 minutes and 55 seconds.

The real MVP of that game was Chris Johnson. Johnson went to the free throw line in the 4th quarter to the roar of warranted MVP chants. Like Hayward seeing dead people, this is not a joke. Just Wolves stuff.

With Johnson at the line, Target Center reached a new level of lit. The MVP chants billowed from the “Wolves Army”— A group of drunk 21-year olds and old guys with painted faces who were astonishingly sober.

The sound standard of Johnson at the line has only just recently been exceeded after the installation of the Cherry Berry promotion.

In that game, Johnson posted an offensive rating of 210.0. Unsurprisingly, Kahn ended up offering Johnson a contract for the remainder of the season. While Adreian Payne and Johnson often get confused, Chris Johnson actually plays professionally in Puerto Rico. He never played another NBA game after that special season in Minnesota.

Post-Kahn Era 10-Day Contracts

Miroslav Raduljica: Center, Serbia

2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Ten Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

2014-15 was the beginning of the end for Nikola Pekovic. Pek played in a mere 31 games that season, so the Wolves tried to replace him. Some say Raduljica looks identical to Pek, but I am a Pekovic-purist. For me, Raduljica more so strikes me as a distant Serbian cousin of the Plumlee brothers.

Raduljica signed two 10-day contracts with the Wolves in 2014-15. He played 23 minutes and earned $96,000.

Sean Kilpatrick: Shooting Guard, University of Cincinnati

This is my favorite Wolves 10-day story.

Entering a game in New York against the Knicks, the Wolves signed Sean Kilpatrick because, as a New York native, he was simply the closest available player.

There is a league mandate that a team must roster eight healthy players. For this game against the Knicks, Minnesota not only needed a player, they needed someone who could show up by tip off. "We had to fulfill our rules, so we had to go find somebody that was within a train ride away," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said.

To sign Kilpatrick, the Wolves were granted an NBA hardship exception for a 16th roster spot. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) This game was Kilpatrick’s first in the NBA. To say, the Wolves got some random guy off his couch to come play for them would literally not be an exaggeration in this instance.

In the below clip, Kilpatrick can be seen in the far left corner punching himself (with both fists) in the chest following a Zach LaVine layup. I don’t blame the guy, I’ve had this dream numerous times. Waking up from a nap to a voicemail from Flip Saunders saying, “Hey Dane, wanna play for the Wolves tonight?”

It’s no guarantee that Lance Stephenson will be any good. But if history is any indicator we can safely assume this signing will at the very least be entertaining.

Unfortunately, there are many names I left off the list. Let’s reminisce and relive the rest in the comment section. Who’s your favorite Wolves 10-day contract signee?