With today’s news that Kyrie Irving will undergo a “minimally invasive” procedure to ease persistent irritation in his left knee, the Boston Celtics will petition the NBA for a Hardship Exemption per league sources.
With Kyrie Irving joining Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis and, of course, Gordon Hayward on the shelf for a while due to injury, source says the Celtics will petition with the NBA for a Hardship Exemption. If granted, Boston will be able to add an additional player to the roster.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 23, 2018
The Hardship Exemption is a tool that allows NBA teams that are hit hard by injuries to continue to field a deep enough roster to both practice and play games. In order to qualify, teams must have at least four players out for at least three games to petition. As soon as one of the injured players is ready to return, the team must drop back into compliance with standard roster size.
For Boston, they are now adding Irving to an injury list that has grown in recent weeks. Gordon Hayward has been out since the first game of the season, after his gruesome leg injury on opening night. Daniel Theis joined him, as he is out for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. And then Marcus Smart tore a ligament in his right thumb and will be out for somewhere between four and eight weeks, per reports.
In addition, Jaylen Brown has been out of the lineup, after suffering a concussion following a scary fall in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brown has progressed through the concussion protocol and a return to the lineup is targeted for this Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
With Irving, Smart and Theis joining Hayward as out for at least several games, Brown’s return has no impact on Boston petitioning for the Hardship Exemption.
One thing that is important to note is that the Hardship Exemption is related to roster size and not to the salary cap. This differs from the Disabled Player Exception that the Celtics received when it was found Gordon Hayward was unlikely to return this season. The team ultimately used the DPE to sign Greg Monroe for the remainder of this season. Boston will not receive any addition salary cap help to sign a new player with the Hardship Exemption.
Because the Celtics are over the salary cap, the most they can offer a player is a league minimum contract. In most cases, teams generally sign a player to a 10 Day Contract, which is often followed by a second 10 Day Contract. After two 10 Day Contracts, teams must sign a player for the remainder of the season. The Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans have both made considerable use of Hardship Exemptions over the last couple of season, when both were decimated by injuries. New Orleans got to as many at 19 players on their roster at one point, and this was pre-Two-Way contracts.
Boston could look to the free agent market for additional point guard depth, as Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin and untested rookie Kadeem Allen are the lone ball handlers on the roster at the moment. In addition, several players have returned from overseas leagues that have completed their seasons, or are set to return soon. No matter what, it looks like the Celtics will have a new player in green, probably before they return from their current road trip.